A Tesco supermarket in west London, the UK. Picture: REUTERS
A Tesco supermarket in west London, the UK. Picture: REUTERS

London — Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, is stepping up efforts to encourage shoppers to recycle plastic bottles, trialling in-store recycling machines that pay customers for every bottle returned.

The British government has said it wants to work with industry to clamp down on the huge waste that litters the land and sea every year.

According to government data, Britain recycled only 57% of the bottles that were sold in 2016, well behind the rates achieved in Denmark, where a deposit return scheme has boosted rates to 90%. Tesco said on Thursday the trial of "reverse vending machines" will take place at stores in Borehamwood, north of London, Manchester, Birmingham, Swansea and Edinburgh. The first machine opened in Borehamwood, with customers paid 10p for each bottle returned.

Tesco’s trial follows the launch of similar initiatives by Morrisons, Britain’s number four grocer, the Co-operative (6th) and Iceland (9th).

Tesco, which has a UK grocery market share of 27.4%, cited polling data by YouGov, which found that nearly 75% of British citizens would be likely to return plastic bottles and aluminium cans under a reverse vending scheme.

Tesco said that from October 3 customers would also be able to reuse their own plastic containers when they buy meat, cheese or fish from deli and fish counters in British stores.

The group, which has committed to making all its packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025, also called on the government to introduce a consistent nationwide approach to recycling.

Britain has managed to slash the use of plastic bags since 2015 by charging 5p for each bag.