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Supermarkets soft plastic in-store collection

Consumers across the UK have been sold the idea that they can now return their soft plastic packaging - that isn't recycled through domestic kerbside collection - to the supermarkets’ soft plastic collection schemes.

A fifth of all plastic packaging placed on the market in the UK is soft-plastic packaging which comes in the form of bread bags, pet food pouches, biscuit packaging and crisp packets. Only 6% of this flexible plastic ends up recycled.

These schemes, led by WRAP and part of the Plastic Pacts, have been rolled out across the UK and there are now over 4000 collection points – 885 of them only in Tesco. In the last years, nine major supermarkets in the UK have launched in-store collection points – Tesco, Waitrose, Coop, Lidl, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Aldi, and Asda while Morrisons co-owns a recycling facility that will be able to handle soft plastics. However, research by Wicked Leeks and Ends Report exposed a worrying lack of transparency in terms of how much soft plastic they are collecting and how much is actually recycled. Only two supermarkets were able to report collection number in tonnage. Research also showed that only a tiny fraction is recycled back into food packaging, with most ending up downcycled as bin bags, buckets, etc.

These initiatives are therefore misleading consumers into thinking that their waste will get recycled, while in reality there is little information to what happens to collected materials.

For more information read the recent investigation by EIA.