Walkers recycling scheme: trees and onion

Walkers recycling
© iStock/ John-Kelly

Crisp giant Walkers has announced the UK’s first nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme.

The scheme comes in the wake of a grassroots campaign by anti-plastics activists to pressure the Walkers and its owner, PepsiCo UK, to introduce recyclable packaging.

After Walkers claimed they would begin using renewable materials in their crisp packets by 2025, campaigners who felt the wait was too long began posting empty packets back to the manufacturer, promoting the campaign on social media with the hashtag #PacketInWalkers. Royal Mail had to ask the public to stop posting crisp packets without envelopes, as they could not go through sorting machines.

Because the high fat content of crisps puts them at risk of quickly going rancid when exposed to oxygen, packets are made from metallised plastic, a fusion of foil and plastic which lasts for decades before breaking down. While metallised plastic is technically recyclable, it is difficult and expensive to recycle and is not currently separated for recycling in waste schemes. Walkers produces more than 11 million crisp packets per day; as a signatory to the UK Plastics Pact, the company has pledged to make its packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025.

Working in partnership with Terracycle, which concentrates its efforts on difficult-to-recycle materials, Walkers has invited consumers to return used packets through the post (in envelopes this time). Once the packets reach Terracycle, they will be be broken down and remade into items such as benches, fence posts and plant pots.

The new scheme will accept packets from all brands of crisps and will include public access collection points as well as the option to print a free postage label in order to post packets. Walkers is currently trialling plant- and paper-based packaging materials in Chile, India and the USA.

The scheme will begin in December 2018; Walkers will inform the public of collection point locations closer to the time.

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