Food and drink giants collaborate to improve ‘on-the-go’ recycling in Leeds

A string of 18 corporations from the food and drink and packaging sectors, including Asda, Co-op and Marks and Spencer (M&S), have teamed up to launch a scheme aimed at boosting recycling rates for "on-the-go "packaging.

The coalition of companies, which also includes Danone, Costa and PepsiCo, has partnered with food waste management firm Hubbub to invest in recycling infrastructure and sustainability communications improvements to see how effective these measures are at increasing the proportion of takeaway food and drink packaging that is recycled.

The upgraded recycling facilities will be rolled out across Leeds city centre from September, with new infrastructure set to be installed on the streets as well as in offices, shopping centres, transport hubs and universities.

The initiative, called LeedsByExample and backed by Leeds City Council alongside recycling compliance scheme EcoSurety, will also involve the trial of an app which can scan on-pack barcodes to tell consumers how to recycle their packaging, with a map to find their nearest recycling points.

Hubbub director and co-founder Gavin Ellis said it was “fantastic” to have big-name corporations, including Coca Cola GB, Innocent and Morrisons, showing their appetite to tackle the nation’s hotly-debated waste problems.

“We know that the public want to do the right thing and recycle as much as they can, but are often confused as to how to do this or simply don’t have access to the recycling facilities they need while they’re out and about,” he said.

Ellis added that he would like to see the initiative’s findings inform policy making while spurring the growth of similar recycling initiatives across the UK.

The LeedsByExample trial is timely, with the latest Recoup figures suggesting that only 42% of local authorities have adequate infrastructure to process “on-the-go” waste, while less than half (41%) of consumers did not recycle their plastic bottles when they were out in public.

The market for takeaway refreshments is growing rapidly; the UK industry was worth a record £17.4bn last year, with several sustainability professionals claiming that this figure will only rise. Indeed, Recoup’s projections suggest that the market will be worth more than £23bn by 2022.

Recycling in a rush

Most of the firms taking part in LeedsByExample have already made their own commitments to drive a more circular packaging approach, with Costa this year announcing that it would recycle the equivalent of its entire annual sales of takeaway cups – at a financial cost to the business – after successfully trialling in-store recycling at more than 2,000 of its stores nationwide.

Similarly, Coca Cola has pledged recycle the equivalent of all of its packaging by 2030, while PepsiCo has set a 2020 target of making 100% of its packaging easy to recycle.

Several of the LeedsByExample members, including M&S, Asda and PepsiCo, have additionally made joint commitments to make unnecessary single-use plastic packaging “a thing of the past” by signing WRAP’s Plastics Pact.

Sarah George

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