Walkers to launch UK's first crisp packet recycling scheme

The UK's biggest crisp brand Walkers has unveiled plans to launch a nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme, following months of consumer protests against its hard-to-recycle packaging.

Walkers currently produces more than 7,000 non-recyclable crisp packets every minute. image: Si Griffiths

Walkers currently produces more than 7,000 non-recyclable crisp packets every minute. image: Si Griffiths

The company, which is a subsidiary of global food and beverage giant PepsiCo, has partnered with recycling firm TerraCycle to develop a method of recycling the packets.

The method involves cleaning and shredding the metallised film, allowing it to be melted into small plastic pellets that can then be incorporated into products such as fence posts and furniture.

Under the scheme, consumers will be encouraged to deposit used crisp packets at one of the hundreds of public collection points that will be developed by the December 2018 launch date, or to post them to TerraCycle free of charge. Packaging from any crisp brand will be accepted.

“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,” PepsiCo UK’s general manager Ian Ellington said.

“Our new Walkers recycling initiative starts to tackle this issue right now by repurposing used crisp packets to create everyday items such as plant pots and benches. We hope people will embrace this idea and join us in ensuring crisp packets are recycled.”

Although the inside of conventional crisp packets are shiny and look like foil, they are in fact a flexible plastic film which is not accepted by most local authorities for recycling. The Government-funded body Recycle Now – part of WRAP - advises that no packets are currently recyclable and that they should be put in the rubbish rather than the recycling bin.

Packet In

The launch of the scheme comes after analysis by campaign organisation 38 Degrees found that Walkers is set to produce an additional 28 billion plastic crisp packets by 2025 – the date by which the company has pledged to make its packaging 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.

This analysis spurred the launch of the #PacketInWalkers social media campaign, which saw thousands of customers posting their used crisp packets back to Walkers’ UK headquarters to demand that the company took greater responsibility for the environmental impact of its packaging. 

Launched by charity Kids Against Plastic last month, the campaign has seen more than 300,000 people sign a petition calling on “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”.

A spokesperson for PepsiCo previously told edie that the company was working on numerous initiatives to reduce the amount of packaging it uses, while “examining” the feasibility of using plant or paper-based alternatives.

“We don’t have all the answers yet, which is why we’re collaborating with leaders in this area to share the latest science and practical solutions,” the spokesperson said, citing PepsiCo’s collaboration with biotechnology firm Danimer Scientific for the development of biodegradable packaging.

The company is notably a member of the UK Plastics Pact, which sees signatories pledge to eliminate single-use packaging through redesign by 2025.

Sarah George


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