Recycling rates in the UK stand at just over 40%. Unfortunately, most packaging waste still ends up in landfill. Are there ways around this? Yes! There is nothing to stop brand owners and retailers from developing programmes to recycle their currently non-recyclable packaging waste.
Many types of UK packaging waste are recyclable but still end up in landfill because the materials are difficult to separate from other materials, difficult to recycle or too costly to recycle. Often the infrastructure simply isn’t in place with local council recycling kerbside collections.
My company TerraCycle has been taking on the challenge of difficult-to-recycle materials in the UK since September 2009 with brands such as Activia, Aquafresh, BIC, Ella’s Kitchen, Johnson’s, Kenco and Tassimo.
Once we partner with a brand, we set up a “Brigade” so individuals, families, schools, community groups and businesses can collect and send in a certain type of waste such as coffee machine pods or baby wipes packaging.
This month, we launched the United Biscuits McVitie’s Biscuit Wrapper Brigade, a UK-wide recycling and fundraising scheme designed to repurpose used biscuit wrappers of all brands that would otherwise end up in landfill. The aim is to incentivise the consumer to send in their used biscuit wrappers using freepost labels in return for a monetary donation to the charity of their choice. The wrappers are then recycled into everyday products such as watering cans, garden benches and waste bins.
This has a two-prong effect in that it extends the lifecycle of everyday waste packaging while reducing the amount sent to landfill. It also reduces the pressure on virgin materials.
Today TerraCycle operates in 20 countries and partners with over 50 major brands to recycle their previously non-recyclable waste, saving 2.5 billion pieces of waste from landfill (almost nine million in the UK) and raising $4.3m for charities (over £100,000 in the UK).
There are a whole host of packaging materials out there in the UK that could be recycled - but more brand owners and retailers need to get on board.