Mars seeking ‘industry-wide’ recycling solution after pet food packaging scheme launch

EXCLUSIVE: Consumer goods giant Mars is exploring the possibility of developing nationwide packaging takeback schemes for its food and drinks packaging, after successfully developing such a programme for its petfood pouches.

Mars’s Petcare arm has this week uneiled a new pet food packaging recycling scheme in the UK, as part of its bid to ensure 100% fo its packaging is “widely recyclable” by 2025.

The company, which sells brands such as Whiskers and James Wellbeloved, has partnered with recycling firm Terracycle to develop an innovative method to recycle pet food pouches.

Under the scheme, which launched on Thursday (November 29), consumers are encouraged to deposit their used wet food pouches, treat pouches and dry food packaging at one of the hundreds of public collection points that have been installed at community locations across the UK.

Once collected, the packaging will be cleaned and shredded before being melted down into small plastic pellets, which Terracycle will the use to manufacture products such as fence posts and furniture. Any leftover food or organic residue left in the deposited packaging will be composted and used to make fertiliser.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Mars Petcare’s UK managing director Deri Watkins explained that the company was in talks over the development of similar schemes for Mars’s wider packaging portfolio.

“January marks our first steps with Whiskers and James Wellbeloved, but we are in discussion with a number of retailers and manufacturers to figure out a way of expanding the project beyond the UK and beyond petcare,” Watkins said.

“It makes sense to have an industry solution if we can, rather than creating small-scale activities.”

Watkins added that the Petcare scheme would “complement” parent company Mars’s global commitment to ensure all of its packaging is recyclable by 2025.

“To be able to move to a place where all of our packaging is recyclable is going to take time, due to the innovation required on materials and the conversions required to industrial assets – within both our supply chains and the recycling market,” he explained.

“We’ve made a commitment to have that dearth globally, which we are working on and investing our share of $1bn in assets, infrastructure and innovation.

“However, there are things we can start doing in the interim to make a difference. We’ve been able to launch this programme quickly and believe it will reach as many consumers as possible.”

In order to ensure as much packaging as possible is collected under the scheme, Watkins explained that Mars Petcare would place on-pack information on its most popular products from next month, and share information of the campaign on its website and social media channels. It will additionally accept packaging from any brand.

Watkins also noted that the fact that collection points are given rewards points for recycling – which they can then exchange for charitable donations – would serve to incentivise behaviour change.

Packet in

Although many conventional pet food pouches are shiny and look like foil, most consist of a flexible plastic layer and an aluminimum layer, meaning they are not accepted by most local authorities for recycling. The Government-funded body Recycle Now – part of WRAP – advises that some packets are currently not recyclable and should therefore be put in the rubbish rather than the recycling bin.

“Most of the volume of packaging in the pet care market is accounted for by plastic – with pouches being extremely common due to the fact that they are convenient, high-quality and food-safe. Within the petcare market, pouches make up 59% of packaging by volume,” Watkins said.

“But because they consist of both plastic and aluminium, this does make the recycling process quite difficult. We decided to focus the partnership here as this is where we will have maximum impact.”

The announcement from Mars Petcare comes shortly after Colgate Palmolive forged a similar partnership with Terracycle in order to develop a recycling scheme for oral care products including toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and dental floss containers.

Terracycle has also partnered with both PepsiCo and Kellogg in recent months to launch similar recycling schemes for Walkers crisp packets and Pringles cans – both items of packaging which have faced campaigner criticism over recyclability concerns this year.

Sarah George

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