Recycling Association Criticizes Pringles and Whiskey Packaging

Product packaging is one of the most important industries when it comes to recycling. And according to the Recycling Association, Pringles and other everyday items have failed to design packaging that satisfies the recycling standards. According to Simon Ellin, the CEO of the organization, product designers should stay away from “the Pringles factor” if they want to make more recyclable packaging.

The Recycling Association, which speaks for U.K. recyclers, pointed out that the popular snack tube is an excellent example of the failure to create design with recycling in mind. But Pringles is the not the only one to blame; other offenders were included on the list, such as Lucozade Sport drinks and standard whisky packaging.

“Villains” of Recycling

At a conference this week, Ellin explained the biggest issues occurred when a company uses multiple materials the same packaging. When it comes to Pringles, the idea of recyclability is close to zero. In addition to the cardboard tube, the product also contain a metal bottom and a plastic lid. This unlucky combination make the tube an alien; it doesn’t fit in any of our recycling bins.

“The Pringles factor – right at the design stage, we’ve got to get that right. What we’re putting in our recycling bins has got to be recyclable. We’ve got to get away from the Pringles factor,” said Simon Ellin.

The Lucozade Sport bottles feature a similar design, which is why the company was also highly criticized. In this case, the bottle is recyclable, but its recyclability is significantly lowered due to the bottle’s sleeve. Because it is made from a different type of plastic, the entire product ranked as the “No 2 villain” in terms of design.

Also read: [Your Guide to Plastic Numbers]

The combination confuses computer scanners, which is why Lucozade Sport bottles must be picked by hand off the recycling line. In most cases, nobody bothers to separate the plastic sleeve from the bottle and the product just ends up in the local landfill.

Ellin also said that cleaning products in spray bottles are often misleading. Most brands claim their containers are recyclable, but the presence of a metal spring and other polymers turn them into a recycling problem. The same goes for the coloring used for black plastic food trays. On one hand, the color makes red meat looks more appetizing. On the other, it makes the product completely “worthless” in terms of recycling.

What’s the Solution?

Ellin’s list comes as record-breaking yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur arranges to open a multimillion-pound contest to support the reduction of plastic pollution in our oceans. Prince of Wales joined her in her green efforts on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Given that just 14 percent of plastic packaging becomes recycled worldwide, the projections for the near future are rather alarming.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the amount of plastic could surpass the number of fish in the world’s ocean by 2050. To change this ominous prediction, MacArthur believes we must fundamentally reconsider the way we design and manufacture plastics.

Also read: [Plastic Bottle Recycling 101: Useful Facts and Ideas]

MacArthur’s foundation has two main functions. On one hand, it explores ideas to prevent plastic straws, coffee cup lips, and plastic bottle tops from floating in the sea. On the other, it seeks to advance the general product design in order to make items easier to recycle. The latest competition – launched in partnership with the prince’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU) – offers up to $2m (£1.5m) in grants.

Who can participate? Inventors who can make plastic packaging easier to recycle or those who can replace it altogether with other materials. The chief executive of the UK Recycling Association said he welcomed the competition, adding that product design is an industry that desperately requires improvements.

What Did Pringles Say?

It cannot be easy to be so harshly criticized, especially considering Pringles’ universal status as beloved potato chips brand. However, the company took the claims of the Recycling Associations under considerations. According to a Pringles spokesman,

“We take our responsibilities to the planet we all share seriously and are continuously working to improve our environmental performance. All parts of a Pringles can act as a barrier to protect the chips from environmental contamination and to keep them fresh. The freshness of our chips means a longer shelf life, which minimizes food waste.”

So maybe there’s a reason why the Pringles can contains so many different materials. However, Ellin hopes the American brand will reconsider its practices. On the other hand, Lucozade also responded to the accusations. A representative said the company fully recognized its environmental responsibilities. Meanwhile, Lucozade has cut back on its use of plastic in bottles by 540 tons over the last year alone. A spokesman added Lucozade welcomes “any technological breakthroughs that support this ambition.”

Worst Recycling Offenders

This is the official list released by the Recycling Association in the eve of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation competition:

  • No. 1 Recycling Villain: Pringles. – and other products with similar packaging. A recycling nightmare because the parts are impossible to separate.
  • No. 2 Recycling Villain: Lucozade Sport. – and other drinks with similar packaging. Mixing plastics is never a good idea. The items often get chucked away.
  • Cleaning Spray Bottles. – Another prime example of products that mix materials. Spray bottles are incredibly common, which means tons of plastic mixed with metal springs and other polymers end up in the landfill each year.
  • Black Plastic Food Trays. – The coloring makes the trays impossible to recycle. Recycling centers also have to throw away any trays that come in with the torn film still attached or with a bloody tag below it.
  • Whisky Packaging. – You may be a huge fan of whiskey, but that doesn’t change the facts. Whisky packaging causes massive recycling problems. The bottom is metal, the sleeve is plastic, the cap is metal again, the bottle is glass – all in all, a bottle of whiskey is usually un-recyclable.

In future, designers will have to produce items that can be easily reused. Companies will have to follow higher standards due to the increasing pressure on materials caused by the growing population. What do you think? Talk to us in the comment section below! Thank you.

Make sure to learn how you can recycle. learn how you can recycle.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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