Waitrose rolls out in-store plastic recycling trial

Waitrose has announced plans to roll out a new trial that give customers the opportunity to return hard to recycle flexible plastics at their local store.

The scheme goes live this week across 37 branches serviced by the supermarket’s Leyland distribution centre in the North of England.

The trial will permit all clean flexible plastics that can be crunched up, stretched, squashed or unfurled to be deposited in-store for an initial period of 12 weeks.

Drop off points that have historically been used to recycle plastic bags will be retrofitted to allow an expanded range of flexible plastics, including crisp packets, sweet wrappers, bubble wrap, cling film and many more.

It’s projected that flexible plastics accounts for a quarter of all consumer packaging on the market, amounting to 215 billion items per year, but much of it is currently not recycled due to industry challenges.

The trial aims to address this challenge and be used to provide critical insight on the volumes, type and level of contamination of the plastic packaging collected.

Waitrose said that it could extend the scheme to all stores in the near future if the trial is successful.

“The UK’s infrastructure is currently not fit for purpose to deal with the recycling of all flexible plastics, with significant volumes currently going to landfill or being incinerated in the UK each year,” said Marija Rompani, partner & director of ethics & sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership. “If the UK is to become more efficient in its handling of difficult to recycle flexible plastics, we not only need to invest in more capable machinery, we need to come together as an industry and make recycling flexible plastics easier for the public."

Rompani added: “This is the emphasis of our trial and our new drop off points in store and we hope it will provide us with the intelligence needed to roll out more widely in the future.”

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