Packaging of popular branded produce is less recyclable in the UK

1st May 2021 | Recycling

Popular branded products come in packaging that is less easily recycled in practice in the UK than in other countries, the consumer group Which? has revealed. The watchdog joined eight international consumer groups, together representing 1.8 billion people, to look at the recyclability of 11 common products in different nations.

Of the nine countries examined — among whom were Australia, Brazil and France — the UK ranked fifth with 32 per cent of packaging tested not being easily recyclable. This was just better than the average for all the countries of 35 per cent — which was dragged down by low recyclability rates in Brazil (92%) and New Zealand (57%).

Of the products tested, the worst offenders in the UK were KitKat Four Fingers and 125g packets of peanut M&Ms, whose wrappings were not recyclable in the UK. Meanwhile, only 8 per cent of tubes of Pringles’ Rice Fusion ‘Peking Duck with Hoisin Sauce’ flavour were recyclable in the UK.

However, regular 150 ml Coca-Cola bottles, Nescafé Original coffee jars and Dove nourishing silk body wash were all found to be 100 per cent recyclable in the UK. In the study, packaging was considered easily recyclable only if there was an existing collection, sorting and processing system available for consumers to use. ‘We know UK consumers want packaging that is easy to recycle,’ Which? sustainability head Michael Briggs said.

‘While many types of packaging can be recycled in household collections, the UK is lagging behind some other countries when it comes to packaging recyclability. Manufacturers must do more to ensure their packaging can be easily recycled. ‘The government should make recycling labels on grocery packaging mandatory, simple and clear – enabling shoppers to know exactly how to dispose of packaging on the products they use.’

According to Which?, and improvement in both recycling infrastructure and product manufacturing would have a significant impact on the recyclability of product packaging in each of the nine countries examined in the study.

However, they added, ‘more can be done to improve the recyclability of grocery packaging in the UK.’

The study also looked at the quality of recycling labelling on each of the 11 products across the different countries — finding that none provided clear information consistently across all nine nations.

In fact, a third did not have any recycling information printed on them.

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