Soft plastic collection

James Bull
Head of Packaging

We all know that plastic packaging can have a devastating consequence if it becomes waste and ends up in the environment. It’s why we are committed to creating a system where we minimise single use plastic and ensure everything we use can be recycled as a part of a closed loop.

We aim to achieve this through our 4Rs packaging strategy, Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This means we remove and reduce plastic wherever possible and help customers to reuse more. Then we make sure everything that’s left can be easily recycled.

Soft plastic packaging plays an important role in prolonging the shelf-life of our food and preventing food waste, so we can’t get rid of it all-together. However, as the material is not commonly collected for recycling by councils in the UK, it often ends up in landfill.

Our recent roll-out of soft plastic collection points to 171 stores is an important part of our efforts to solve this problem and create a closed loop recycling system for our packaging.

Customers can bring all types of soft plastics to our collection points. This includes everything from crisp and salad packets to microwavable pouches, bread wrappers and shrink wraps - no matter where it was purchased. Collected materials are washed, sorted, and recycled, ideally within our own packaging.

Here’s a short video that uses the case study of a cucumber to explain:

Customers have responded well to the roll-out of the new collection points and the amount of soft plastic returned is increasing by the week. We’re currently collecting over a tonne of soft plastic a day, that’s the same weight as a small car.

Working with our recycling partners, we will oversee the process of collection, transport and recycling to ensure we understand and minimise the environmental impact. We will always find the best possible use for it and keep it out of landfill.

Our existing distribution network is used to transport the soft plastic to our partners, who clean and sort it. We then direct and monitor the sorted material to recyclers and wherever possible, bring it back into our supply chain.

We were able to recover over 80% of the soft plastic returned by customers in a recent trial and are working with recyclers to explore what can be done with the remaining 20%. Some of the collected soft plastic has already been recycled into food grade packaging for our own brand cheeses and sold in store.

We are currently exploring other products and packaging that the recycled soft plastic can be used in, considering a range of environmental impacts as we develop solutions. We’ll continue to share updates as and when these items are available in our stores.

All we ask is that you bring us your soft plastic, as clean as possible, and we’ll save the material from going into landfill and recycle it to give it another use.

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