LIFESTYLE
26/09/2018 15:05 BST | Updated 27/09/2018 09:57 BST

Why Aren't There Recyclable Crisp Packets?

20 million crisp packets are produced everyday in the UK.

Crisp packets and their environmental impact have become something of a national issue in recent months, so much so that campaigners have actually started posting used packets to Walkers because they can’t be recycled. 

The backlash has been so significant that the Royal Mail is now asking everyone to stop putting them unpackaged in to mailboxes.

Royal Mail states that because the crisp packets aren’t packaged properly, they can’t go through their automated sorting machines and need to be done by hand, which in turn causes delays.

The campaign has unsurprisingly caused something of a headache for Pepsico - the owners of Walkers - who have committed to make their products 100% recyclable by 2025. 

But 38 Degrees, who organised the campaign, say this isn’t soon enough as billions of Walkers crips packets will be discarded before then.

Why can’t you recycle crisp packets? 

According to Mike Childs, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, the problem with crisp packets is that they use a “cocktail of plastics” with several different layers, including the outer layer, inside layer and sealant.

While the inside of most packets looks like shiny foil, this is in fact a metalised plastic film which cannot be recycled.

“While this [mix of materials] ensures the packaging is lightweight, flexible and keeps the contents fresh, the mixture of materials involved makes crisp packets a nightmare of plastic pollution,” he told HuffPost UK.

eamanver via Getty Images

Crisps are a national favourite with 90% of adults consuming them regularly, according to Mintel. As such 20 million crisp packets are produced everyday in the UK, half of which are produced by Walkers. 

Yet despite this, the campaign by 38 degrees has managed to put crisp packets at the forefront of the issues surrounding single use plastics by environmentalists.

What are the alternatives?

This isn’t the first time crisp producers have tried to deal with the issue, PepsiCo trialed several biodegradable bags in the US in 2009 but remarkably were abandoned in 2010 when customers complained they were too noisy. 

They tried again in 2011 with a new, less noisy biodegradable packaging on a minor brand, but these too were abandoned

With the pressure mounting against crisp packets and all single use plastics, it is clearly time to revisit the idea.

The campaign by 38 degrees coincides with Recycle Week, where councils and businesses up and down the country are promoting better ways to recycle more.