The scheme, organised by Loop, a part of US-based TerraCycle, allows consumers to order products such as drinks, sauces, yoghurt, toothpaste, shampoo, moisturiser and washing detergent in customised refillable packaging.
Tesco described the concept as being “similar to how the milkman used to come to the front door, pick up used milk bottles, and leave fresh milk in a new container” – customers pay a deposit fee on each piece of packaging, which can be fully refunded if they return the packaging.
To use the scheme, after drinking their drink or finishing their ketchup, customers place the empty bottle into a tote bag supplied by Loop and arrange this to be picked up and replaced full again, or the empty packaging can be dropped off in the tote bag at a DPD collection point.
Loop promises to “professionally clean” the packaging and bag and simultaneously replenish the contents if requested by the consumer “in a continuous loop”, which it says leads to zero waste.
Tesco said the pilot scheme is part of its ‘4R’ packaging plan, where the supermarket has given suppliers an ultimatum to cut excessive plastic or face products being cut from its shelves, and could lead to wider rollout if it resonates with customers.
The launch comes a day after fellow FTSE 100 group Diageo said it will from next year sell some of its Johnnie Walker whisky in a paper bottle.
With the UK's ten biggest supermarkets found to be producing more than 900,000 tonnes of single-use plastic packaging every year, they and their suppliers are coming under growing pressure from consumers to mend their ways.
Currently, only around 9% of all plastic produced worldwide is recycled, and can only be recycled between three and eight times, with the rest incinerated or added to landfill.
Of Tesco's rivals, Morrisons (LON:MRW) has set a target to increase reusable and refillable packaging, while also started its own refill trials.
Sainsbury’s has introduced plastic reduction targets and expressed a commitment to scale up reusable packaging ranges.