Why Brits Have Been Mailing Potato Chip Packets (And Why They Can Now Stop)

CC BY-SA 2.0. Osde8info

It turns out that consumer pressure really can work.

Recently, the UK's Royal Mail had to ask consumers to stop putting stamps on their crisp (potato chip) packets and putting them in the post (mail) box. It was all part of a public pressure campaign to force Walkers Crisps to up their game when it comes to recycling, and while it no doubt caused temporary headaches for Royal Mail sorting staff, there's hopefully some light at the end of the crumb- and grease-filled tunnel:

Business Green reports that Walkers has just announced a partnership with TerraCycle whereby all packets can be returned for recycling.

Specifically, the initiative will see hundreds of collection sites established across the country where crisp packets will be collected, cleaned, shredded and turned into plastic pellets for recycling into new items such as benches or fence posts, apparently. And in case a consumer finds themselves too far away from a collection point, they can mail their packets in directly to TerraCycle—although they are asked to use a box or an envelope...

Now, typically, I tend to be a little bit skeptical of recycling schemes that require extra effort on behalf of the consumer. While it may make the committed ethical consumer feel better, we'd all be much better off prioritizing waste reduction and a true circular economy than we are hoping that everyone will mail in or sort their own trash for individualized return and recycling.

Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction. And as someone who went to school in the UK (yes, it hurt my heart to write 'chips' in the headline), I can attest to quite how many packets of Walkers are devoured in this carb-loving nation's schools. Even if collection and recycling were limited to schools and school grounds, this is one product that is so widely consumed that an effectively executed collection and recycling scheme could really have an impact on both recycling rates and litter prevalence.

So let's hope that the initiative takes off.