Tesco plans to remove 1 billion pieces of plastic from products it sells in its UK stores by the end of next year.

The supermarket giant is scrapping plastic trays from ready meals, secondary lids on products such as cream and yoghurts, straws from drink cartons, forks from snack pots, and small plastic bags used to carry loose fruit and vegetables.

Tesco said 200 million pieces of plastic alone will be stripped out by removing the packaging used on clothing and greetings cards.

The move forms part of the grocer’s ‘Four Rs’ strategy – remove, reduce, reuse or recycle – to axe all non-recyclable and excess packaging from its business.

Tesco met with 1,500 of its suppliers in August to inform them of its new stance on packaging. Britain’s biggest retailer has put packaging at the heart of its thinking when deciding which products to stock.

It is working with suppliers to come up with alternatives to excessive or hard-to-recycle plastics.

Tesco is already stripping out hard-to-recycle materials from its own-brand lines – a process it will have completed by the end of this year.

It is also urging the Government to introduce national infrastructure for recycling and has offered to help by handing over car parking space for recycling and testing the collection of materials that are not currently recycled by local councils.

Tesco boss Dave Lewis said: “Our work to remove, reduce, reuse and recycle is already transforming our packaging. Over the next 12 months, we will remove one billion pieces of plastic, further reducing the environmental impact of the products we sell.

“By focusing on solutions that we can apply across all our UK stores and supply chain, we can make a significant difference and achieve real scale in our efforts to tackle plastic.”

WWF UK sustainable materials specialist Paula Chin added: “Plastic pollution is the most visible symptom of the environmental crisis we’re currently facing. Businesses, governments and households have all got an important part to play, so it’s good to see Tesco’s commitment to significantly reduce the amount of plastic we use.”