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Sainsbury’s Announces New In-Store Plastic Recycling Scheme
Sainsbury’s has announced plans to introduce a new plastic film recycling system in some of its stores to give customers more recycling options.
The system is set to be trialled in 63 of its stores across the North East of England, with plans to roll it out across the country by the end of the year.
As part of the scheme, customers will be able to recycle polypropylene (PP) film which is used to make items like salad bags, frozen food bags, biscuits, and cake wrappers which can be hard to recycle at home. Most councils in the UK don’t accept PP film in their kerbside recycling programmes, so it often ends up in landfill.
A 2019 report published by Valpak and commissioned by Wrap found that of the 266,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste that was produced in 2019, PP film made up 80,000 tonnes.
The problem is that until an alternative is found, PP film is the best material available to package foods and keep them fresher for longer.
Sainsbury’s plastic pledge
The introduction of the recycling scheme is part of Sainsbury’s wider pledge to increase recycling in its operations and to make recycling easier for its customers.
Last year, the supermarket giant pledged to halve its use of plastic packaging by 2025 and become net zero in its operations by 2040. The company already has collection points for polyethylene (PE) film and carrier bags in over 600 of its stores.
So what is polypropylene and why is it so widely used?
Polypropylene is a lightweight yet durable plastic with heat-resistant properties that create a barrier against moisture, grease, and chemicals. As you can imagine, this makes it a very versatile material which has numerous uses and benefits:
- Its high melting point means it makes great food containers that are dishwasher and microwave safe.
- It doesn’t contain BPA which is a chemical that can leach into food products and cause health problems. This makes it a great choice for food containers and packaging.
- It can be dyed without any degradation of quality.
- It does not absorb water like some other plastics.
- It doesn’t deteriorate if mould or bacteria are present.
- It’s very resilient to breakage.
- It’s lightweight and flexible.
What is it used for?
You’ll find PP in everything from toys to car parts, carpets, disposable nappies, yoghurt pots, and crisp packets.
Why is it hard to recycle?
Often it’s difficult to remove the smell of the product that has been in the PP container, and there has not been, up until now, much demand for recycled polypropylene due to its low worth and a lack of an economic incentive to recycle it.
Why shouldn’t we send it to landfill or the incinerator?
Like many other plastics, PP takes a long time to degrade and as it does so, toxins like lead and cadmium can leach into the soil and make their way into waterways. Incinerating PP can release poisonous gases like dioxins and vinyl chloride into the air.
As well as popping my PP down to Sainsbury’s, what else can I do?
You can try to reduce your use of plastics overall by investing in reusable items and opting for recycled packaging, or even better, no packaging. Some supermarkets are introducing plastic-free aisles to help reduce the problem of plastic pollution in our environment.