“The development of this positive collection scheme is a strong sign to brands of the liability that hard-to-recycle packaging poses, where consumer activism forces them to invest in areas that arguably should have been higher up in their agenda years ago.”
6 billion. That is the number of crisp packets that UK consumers munch their way through every year. Now the country’s biggest crisp (that’s chips for our US readers) manufacturer Walkers is teaming up with recycler TerraCycle to launch the UK’s first crisp packet recycling scheme to deal with crisp packet waste. The news follows a public campaign against plastic waste earlier this year by snack fans. These fans began posting crisp packets back to Walkers in protest, complaining that the crisp packaging was not recyclable. Now the brand has unveiled a scheme which will allow people to send packets back to TerraCycle, who will shred them into plastic pellets to be used in items like roofing, flooring, trays and even outdoor furniture.
To encourage collection and return of the crisp packets for recycling, Walkers is asking customers to collect a batch of packets and drop them off at specific collection points. All brands of crisp packets will be accepted and there will be around 191 collection points across the country to put them in.
If access to a nearby collection point is difficult to get to, then consumers can have the packets collected from their homes by a courier, free of charge.
Walkers band ambassador and football TV pundit Gary Lineker is supporting the scheme and has voiced an online film explaining how it works.
The scheme has also had the backing of UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove. “As custodians of our planet, we must take action now to protect our oceans and wildlife from single-use plastic pollution,” he said.
He went on to say that Walkers were setting a “fine example” with this new scheme and he wanted to see other companies “step-up, follow suit and reduce their environmental impact”.
Walkers’ parent company PepsiCo has promised to make all packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025.
Ian Ellington, PepsiCo UK’s general manager, said: “This is the first crisp packet recycling scheme in the UK and it will only work if everyone gets collecting and sending in, which is why we’ve made the scheme as simple as possible and free.”
Speaking to Bio-Based World News, Paul Jenkins, managing director of UK packaging innovation consultancy ThePackHub, said: “PepsiCo have acted quickly to respond to the increased negative press regarding the non-recyclability of their crisp packets. The business had previously made a pledge to ensure that all their packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025 but recent consumer dissatisfaction with the lack of current recycling indicate that this was too long to wait. TerraCycle are perfect partners currently participating in several other material recovery schemes around the world.”
Tracy Sutton, packaging design consultant at UK-based packaging consultancy Root, said: “The development of this positive collection scheme is a strong sign to brands of the liability that hard-to-recycle packaging poses, where consumer activism forces them to invest in areas that arguably should have been higher up in their agenda years ago.
“The scheme is very much a ‘first base’ in the waste hierarchy and not a place where most big brands will be content. While offering a system that is available to recycle is an excellent, necessary move, it will not capture a significant volume of packs because it takes too much and effort to get the pack into a system to be recycled, compared to placing it in your household bin at home or on the street.”
She added: “The multi-material output has limited applications for a second life compared to other, simpler material structures, therefore effort needs to be made to design-out these difficult to recycle packaging formats and it will hopefully be a driver for more brands to ensure that their packaging is designed for recycling, to ensure that they are deemed a responsible business. This is more poignant at the moment while we have the big discussion at COP24 going on.”
UK campaign group 38 Degrees was behind the campaign to urge consumers to send Walkers’ crisp packets back to the company via the post earlier this year. In relation to the news about Walkers’ recycling campaign, a spokesman told Bio-Based World News: “We’re delighted that Walkers have listened to the public and launched a recycling scheme. More than 332,000 people signed the petition and their voices made a huge, multi national company listen.
“But this is just the start. The public will be watching to make sure that the recycling scheme is not a PR stunt and that Walkers commit to ditching single-use plastic all together.”