Are you rubbish at recycling?

  • Richard Robinson
  • 18th May 2017

Most of us are familiar with the basics of recycling, but a recent article demonstrates that some of the UK's biggest brands products are not actually recyclable, contrary to the product packaging stating that they are.

Why?

Mixed materials. Whilst the individual parts of the product packaging may be recyclable, in reality they probably will end up in a landfill even if you put them in the recycling bin. Take for example the popular Pringles tin, dubbed the "villain" of recycling world. This product contains 5 materials: 1. Plastic Lid 2. Foil Seal 3. Foil Interior 4. Cardboard Exterior 5. Metal Bottom. Whilst individually you may well be able to recycle the components, the vast majority of Pringles tubes will end up in a landfill. Have you ever deconstructed and separated a Pringles tube after eating? Me neither.

How is this legal?

There are regulations in place to ensure that a product is composed of recyclable or compostable materials but this doesn't seem to cover mixed materials. 

LET'S BOYCOTT PRINGLES!?

I don't really like them but I will happily support a boycott.

According to the article, other offenders include popular hang over cure Lucozade Sport, cleaning spray bottles and black plastic food trays. So, next time your desperately foraging through the reduced section trying to find something affordable, spare a thought for the composition of the packaging and the impending guilt if one does not correctly dissect the various materials.

According to a spokesperson from Kellogg's (who have diversified their product line by acquiring Pringles): "All parts of a Pringles can act as a barrier to keep [the crisps] fresh. That means a longer shelf life, which minimises food waste." Kellogg's acquired the Pringles brand from owners of the world Proctor & Gamble in 2012 for a head spinning $2.7 billion. The company sells $1.5 billion worth Pringles annually, perhaps they could invest in a product designer or two to fix the packaging? Or perhaps this would negatively affect the quarterly projections.

 The Usual Suspects

Recycling laws vary from country to country with one extreme example being Japan. Japan has a recycling rate twice that of the UK, with each district has it’s own recycling rules. One particular prefecture has 44 different categories for recycling!

 Anyone for some sorting?

With this approach clearly not sustainable in countries like the UK, as we are far too busy telling each other how busy we are; would it not be more fruitful to force large companies to create simply recyclable packaging, instead of relying on individual consumers to study the ins and outs of product manufacturing? One example is the humble milk bottle is now manufactured using one type of plastic, thus making it much easier for us to recycle.