Waitrose rolls out soft plastic recycling scheme in stores

The retailer has confirmed today (24 February) that it has added the recycling points to 295 stores across the UK, following extensive trials.

A spokesperson said that while several competitors have launched these recycling points already, Waitrose was one of the first British retailers to trial them. The spokesperson said: “We’ve taken a little longer as we were not convinced there was a credible solution to recycle soft plastics effectively within the UK. We’re now confident there is.”

Customers are being encouraged to bring in any flexible, mono-material plastic packaging so long as it is clean and dry. They will be able to bring in packaging from all brands.

Packaging formats that will be accepted include carrier bags; crisp packets; baby and pet food pouches; bubble wrap; cling film and the plastic bags often used to house products including salad, pasta, rice, frozen food and cereal.

Plastics collected by Waitrose will be sent to a facility in Glasgow where they will be recycled into things like refuse sacks; bags for building materials and horticultural products; guttering; shrink wrap and plastic furniture.

The vast majority of councils in the UK do not collect flexible plastic packaging from homes, meaning that recycling rates are low, at around 8%, according to WRAP. This is why retailers are increasingly offering collection points, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Iceland.

A unified set of materials that UK councils should collect for recycling is being developed by the Government, under the Resources and Waste Strategy. But the Strategy’s implementation has been delayed time and again since it was first published in December 2018. Sky reported this week that retailers, through the British Retail Consortium, will likely call for an overhaul of the Strategy next week, in a bid to avoid increased costs at this moment in time. The Consortium is not commenting further at this stage.

Laundry with less plastic

In related news, Tesco has this week confirmed that all of its own-brand laundry detergent pods will now be packaged in cardboard packaging. The new packaging consists of a rigid box with a thin plastic liner. The box is made using at least 90% recycled card.

The pods had previously been housed in rigid plastic tubs and flexible plastic pouches. Tesco anticipates that the changes will mitigate the use of 252 million tonnes of plastic annually. edie has contacted Tesco regarding the recyclability of the new packaging format.

“Customers are focused on getting great value right now, but we know that they still want to choose products that use less or no plastic in their packaging,” said Tesco’s group quality director Sarah Bradbury said. “This is one of many changes we’re making to reduce unnecessary plastic from products right across our stores.”

Tesco launched an updated packaging strategy in August 2019 and, since then, it has removed 1.8 billion pieces of plastics from its own-brand products. Changes made so far have included the removal of bags to house online deliveries; the replacement of plastic forks from prepared salad and rice bowls and the removal of plastic trays from whole chickens

The supermarket has also been encouraging third-party brands to supply options with less or no plastic, including suppliers of beer and canned goods. Yoghurts and creams, both Tesco-brand and otherwise, is also increasingly coming without a double lid.

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