EXCLUSIVE: Campaign to axe plastic covermounts from children’s magazines gathers pace

Children's magazines

A campaign is putting stores and publishers under renewed pressure to remove plastic covermounts from children’s magazines, with Tesco’s range in the spotlight. 

Twelve-year-old Skye Neville, who successfully lobbied for Waitrose to ban disposable plastic toys from children’s magazines in 2021, has launched a similar campaign against Tesco, backed by nearly 70,000 petitioners. 

Analysis by betterRetailing in December found a third of Tesco’s children’s magazines still use plastic gifts, more than a year on from its range review, which banned all single-use non-recyclable covermounts. 

Magazine industry sources told betterRetailing there was “subjectivity” in what counted as single-use or as educational – the exemptions for Waitrose and Tesco’s bans. 

Discussing Tesco’s approach, Neville told betterRetailing she had spent months this year speaking with Tesco about stricter implementation, without success. “They got close and then bottled it,” she explained. 

Messages from Tesco to Neville and her campaign group – Kids Against Plastic Tat (KAPT) – from July 2022, seen by betterRetailing, state: “As a part of ongoing conversations with suppliers, we have asked magazine and comic suppliers to remove covermounts where possible, especially if they contain single-use plastics, and instead include reusable or recyclable gifts.” 

When contacted by betterRetailing, Tesco responded that it worked with magazine suppliers to cut down on single-use plastic and is exploring a closed-loop system that would allow plastic toys to be recycled. 

There were also signs that ‘subjectivity’ was leading plastic gifts to make it past Waitrose’s ban. 

In stores analysed by betterRetailing, 20-50% of Waitrose’ children’s magazines had plastic covermounts, of which at least 25% were identified as being not primarily educational or reusable. 

Neville told betterRetailing: “The kids at KAPT keep an eye on Waitrose. I have only had to challenge them once about some of the magazines on offer and was told the publishers seem to sneak in other magazines covered in tat that sometimes end up on the shelves. They promised to remind their managers of the policy.” 

Asked about plastics in its kids’ magazine range, a spokesperson from Waitrose said: “While we’re proud of our success, we’re working with our branches and suppliers to make sure we’re getting this right every time, and encourage other retailers to follow our lead.” 

Magazines such as National Geographic Kids and Minecraft World have already scrapped disposable plastics, and KAPT claimed the BBC is considering a similar move on its licensed titles. 

Independent convenience stores had a high rate of kids’ magazines featuring plastics, accounting for 50% of the range in some sites analysed by betterRetailing. 

Industry experts said more publishers and retailers are likely to follow suit, which will likely reduce the range of titles that do use plastics available to independent shops. The Fed’s head of news, Brian Murphy, said: “The plastic toys are a big sales driver in kids’ magazines because they are often impulse purchases driven by a child seeing something they want. 

“It’s up to the purchaser to decide what kind of magazines they want to buy and not the job of retailers to dictate those choices.” 

Read more news and advice about the newspaper and magazines category and click here for the latest ABC circulation figures


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