UK retailer Sainsbury’s is piloting an expansion of its in-store collection system for waste plastic packaging to include polypropylene film in selected Sainsbury’s stores.
The trial stems directly from Sainsbury’s commitment to increase recycling in its own operations and to make recycling easier for its customers, by offering more facilities do so in its stores.
Sainsbury’s currently provides front-of-store collection points for polyethylene film and carrier bags in over 600 supermarkets across the UK. The retailer has now designated 63 of its stores across North East England as participants in the pilot, making it the largest PP film trial in the UK supermarket industry.
PP films are commonly used to package items such as salads or frozen foods. According to a 2020 report commissioned by WRAP, a charity that works to promote and encourage sustainable resource use, and compiled by Valpak, a provider of environmental compliance, data and resource management services, 266,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste in 2019 came from PP, of which 80,000 tonnes from PP film.
Despite these volumes, most councils in the UK do not accept PP for recycling. Sainsbury’s is therefore now experimenting with an approach that will allow customers to put their PP plastics into the same recycling bins currently provided in Sainsbury’s stores that collect PE plastics.
If successful, the retailer will roll out the PP film collection system to all its supermarkets by the end of 2021, in alignment with the ambition of the UK Plastics Pact to improve the recycling rates for film.
“We hope that by trialling flexible film recycling points in our stores and accepting more of the packaging that our customers may be unable to recycle at home, we are helping our customers reduce plastic waste,” Claire Hughes, Director of Product and Innovation at Sainsbury’s, said. “We’ll listen to feedback from our colleagues and customers before we roll out the flexible plastic packaging recycling scheme wider.”
A WRAP spokesman, David Moon, pointed out that developing solutions to overcome the challenge of recycling flexible plastic packaging was a priority for The UK Plastics Pact. Collection points for films at the Sainsbury’s stores trialling the initiative is an important step in the right direction.
“WRAP urges other retailers to ensure that flexible plastic packaging can be easily collected for recycling throughout the UK,” he stressed.
Earlier initiatives implemented by Sainsbury’s have included the introduction in 2012 of car park facilities at 249 stores for customers to recycle plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays; and, in 2019, a Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) pilot at a selected number of stores, offering customers money off their shop when they return recyclable soft drinks packaging.
Moreover, last year, the retailer also pledged to halve its use of plastic packaging by 2025 and become a net-zero business across its own operations by 2040.