Wait, isn’t packaging recyclable already?
What exactly have we been separating for all of these years? Why do we have all these different coloured bins if packaging is not recyclable?
Well, right now, MOST packaging is recyclable, but not all, and that’s the issue. It was recently found that the majority of British consumers would be happy to pay an extra £4 per week to be sure that all of their packaging was recyclable. It was also revealed that a third of people don’t know what is or isn’t recyclable, and so they opt to put items in the general waste instead of doing further research.
Perhaps taking the thought out of domestic recycling is what can make it truly successful.
Right now, we want to put the thought IN to recyclable packaging, and so we welcome again (see here for our three-pronged attack on the deposit return scheme) James Rubin, Founder of Enviro Waste, Stephen Bourdet, Head of Sales and Marketing, and Joseph Kennedy, Founder of Content Pathway.
James Rubin, Founder of Enviro Waste
‘Fundamentally, it’s not just about putting food in packaging that’s recyclable. Of course, this is key, we put it in this packaging and it ends up being used again through the process, however, there is something that people don’t quite look into, which is how easy it is to recycle that piece of material.’
‘Let me give you an example. A lot of the food packaging that is made of plastic, like polythene and other thin plastics, such as plastic bags are not easily recyclable in all areas of the country. While it is factually recyclable, finding outlets for it is not easy.’
‘My council doesn’t accept these kinds of plastic, so I have to drive on a Saturday to Clapton, which is 20 minutes away from our offices. This means that during the week, I’m storing up see-through plastics to go and recycle separately. It’s the convenience of things that works, so if everything was packaged in paper and brown bags, which were traditionally used, then it would be so much better and easier.’
‘For me, it’s not about ‘can it be recycled?’, it’s about ‘how easy is it for it to be recycled?’
Stephen Bourdet, Head of Sales and Marketing at Enviro Waste
‘Education around recycling is crucial. What the government and local councils need to do is ensure that they are educating at every level, as well as across the social and cultural spectrum. The key is getting children educated, as they will then educate their parents and grandparents. Education is about a consistent message as well; you can go to different London Boroughs and the variation on what can and cannot be recycled is staggering, and that is just in London. Travel around the UK and this becomes even more staggering. The UK needs to have a unified approach, and the waste industry needs to help support this. Otherwise, how can we drive a coherent message?’
‘Charging people to ensure that all packaging is recyclable will help raise money to develop solutions, although we need to learn that taxing people does not improve the situation. Often, it fails to address the education principles or put pressure on big industry, who are let off the hook as they move the problem further down the hierarchy’.
‘Pressure on Suppliers, Manufacturers and Retailers is so important. Ultimately, we are producing more waste, and in turn, more recycling, as the suppliers, manufacturers, and the retailers selling the goods are all producing more packaging and leaving the majority of consumers with little choice. Therefore, it is the consumer that is already suffering, and we want to charge them for it? Why should a consumer pay more for buying a product – should the retailer not be rewarding consumers with cheaper prices or loyalty rewards for purchasing items that have little or no waste packaging? Why is the emphasis not on the retailers, suppliers and manufacturers to provide better alternatives?’
‘Leading Brands need to take the lead. We are starting to see this with the plastic issue, where leading brands are making a clear statement and policies to become more responsible and help drive change. Consumers follow brands, so this can be a powerful educational tool in the UK. If leading brands, and retail brands especially take the lead, their influence on UK culture will be huge. This will be far more effective than taxing the consumer. Retailers especially can fight for a greater market share by taking the lead, driving environmental innovation and rewarding consumers’ environmental buying habits, and as a byproduct, they will increase brand loyalty. Tackling the issue at the top of the waste hierarchy drives prevention and minimisation, and therefore puts less pressure on the consumer and the government. Ultimately, it will help the waste industry to tackle the waste packaging situation.’
Joseph Kennedy, Founder of Content Pathway
‘I find it abhorrent that people ‘opt out’ of recycling, especially with the state of the environment right now and the publicly available information and facilities we have for recycling. Saying that, there certainly should be better labelling on packaging, more recyclable packaging and greater incentives for packaging manufacturers to make their products easier to recycle.’
‘Whilst the motivation to package items in recyclable materials should be intrinsic for these manufacturers, it is not, and so financial reward is the suitable measure required to encourage these businesses to act. The notion that it should cost the consumer an extra £4 per week is unfair in my opinion. I believe the government should legislate the movement and subsidise their efforts through the rebates they make on selling the extra materials that enter the recycling market.’
‘I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that the packaging manufacturers would be profiting from making a sustainable packaging switch, and feel that the additional costs should be recovered in different ways. An extra burden on the taxpayers is not a just reward for their extra engagement with recycling; we already pay around £5 per month in council tax towards domestic waste management, which includes recycling.’
‘To finalise my thoughts, I would like to make it clear that I believe all packaging should be recyclable, but that consumer should not be made to pay extra, when the government, recycling companies and manufacturers will all seemingly benefit from the switch.’
In the meantime
Whilst we can aspire towards a future where all packaging must be recyclable, we aren’t there yet, and so we must continue to do what we can and push for change. This is the mentality of Enviro Waste – push for progress, care for the environment, support people and businesses who wish to do the same.
If you produce a lot of packaging waste, and you want to make sure it’s getting recycled by an ethical company, give us a call today and our dedicated Enviro Waste account managers will do all they can to help.