Half of food packaging cannot be recycled easily

25th June 2019

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  • Minimisation


Neil Goulding

Almost half of packaging used by major UK supermarket chains cannot be easily recycled, a Which? investigation has uncovered.

Researchers found that the average percentage of packaging – including cardboard, glass and plastics – that could be put in household recycling bins with ease was just 52%.

The packaging of 46 of the most popular items from 11 supermarkets were investigated, including Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose.

Morrisons was the worst offender, with 61% of its packaging not easily recyclable. Many of its items came with a non-recyclable plastic film designed to prevent food from going off.

The best supermarkets for recyclable packaging were Tesco and Waitrose – only 40% of their packaging could not be easily recycled.

Equally concerning was that 42% of the total supermarket packaging studied was labelled either incorrectly or not at all, increasing the chances of it ending up in landfill.

Iceland was found to be the worst among the group having had only 40% of its packaging correctly labelled, while M&S, Ocado and Waitrose also had less than 50%.

The supermarkets that performed better were Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl, Co-op, and Aldi, while Sainsbury's was best with 71% of its products labelled correctly.

Which? said that all supermarkets should commit to ensuring a much greater proportion of their packaging is recyclable, rather than continuing to use single-use, throwaway materials.

However, as many food retailers often point out, they face a delicate balancing act. Plastic plays an important role in preventing organic waste, which has a higher carbon footprint.

Which? head of home products and services, Natalie Hitchins, said: “Our research shows there is a lot more supermarkets and manufacturers can do to banish single-use plastics and make sure any packaging they do use is minimal, recyclable and correctly labelled, so that shoppers know exactly how they can recycle it.

“To reduce the waste that goes to landfill, the government must make labelling mandatory, simple and clear as well as invest in better infrastructure to ensure that recycling is easy for everyone, regardless of where they live.“

Image credit: iStock


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