Walkers answers critics with launch of UK crisp packet recycling plan

Manufacturer to collect and repurpose packaging after campaign against firm’s waste

Walkers has agreed to offer a free national recycling scheme to stop millions of empty crisp packets ending up in landfill in the UK every year after consumers heaped pressure on it to change its plastic packaging.

A social media campaign asking crisp manufacturers to make their packaging recyclable led to Royal Mail issuing a plea to members of the public last week to put empty crisp packets in an envelope before posting them back to the company.

The Leicester-based company has been accused of adding to the plastic waste littering the streets and seas by producing more than 7,000 non-recyclable crisp packets every minute.

But on Friday Walkers, owned by PepsiCo UK, announced the launch of a nationwide recycling scheme, claiming it was a first for Britain.

From December, crisp eaters will be able to deposit empty packets, regardless of the brand, at hundreds of collection points or post them in a box or envelope free of charge to the recycling firm TerraCycle.

UK consumers munch through 6bn packets of crisps a year. But although the inside of conventional packets are shiny and look like foil, they are a metallised plastic film. The government-funded body Recycle Now, part of its waste advisory body Wrap, says no packets are currently recyclable and that they should be put in the rubbish rather than the recycling bin.

But Walkers insisted crisp packets were “technically recyclable, but the issue until now has been that they weren’t being separated or collected for recycling”.

It said the collected packets would be cleaned, shredded, turned into small plastic pellets and then converted into “useful” plastic items such as benches, plant pots and fence posts.

“We share people’s concerns about the amount of plastic in our environment and are working on a number of both short- and long-term solutions to reduce the impact of our packaging,” said Ian Ellington, general manager of PepsiCo UK. “Our new Walkers recycling initiative starts to tackle this issue right now by repurposing used crisp packets to create everyday items.”

More than 332,000 people have signed a petition on the 38 Degrees website asking “Walkers and other manufacturers to change the materials for their packets to one which is recyclable or even more preferably a non-plastic environmentally friendly material”.

David Babbs, the executive director of 38 Degrees, said: “We are delighted to hear that Walkers will now be recycling used crisp packets. It is proof that public pressure can shift big companies to do more to prevent waste.

“But let’s not forget that there is still more for Walkers to do if they want to keep the public on side. The public will be watching to make sure the new recycling scheme isn’t just a PR stunt. And, most importantly, they have to make their crisp packets fully recyclable far sooner than 2025.”


Rebecca Smithers

The GuardianTramp

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