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Retailers lead recycling breakthrough

7th April 2011 Print

For the first time, shoppers can easily recycle thin plastic packaging such as bread bags and cereal liners thanks to an agreement between the country's biggest supermarkets and the On Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme.

Stores which collect plastic bags for recycling will now accept clean plastic film packaging in the same facilities, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) announced today. A new version of the on-pack label will appear on relevant packaging to encourage customers to dispose of it in this way. Carrier bag banks can be found at more than 4,500 supermarkets.

The thin plastic, also used around multipacks of cans and household goods such as toilet roll, makes up 43 per cent of all plastic household packaging and weighs in at 645,000 tonnes every year. By comparison, plastic bottles account for 32 per cent - 480,000 tonnes. Thin plastic film is fully recyclable but until now most people have had no means of recycling it.

Retailers recognise in-store collection of thin plastics is an efficient way they can contribute further to recycling efforts. They expect to see council sites and kerb-side collections handle the majority of packaging and other waste, such as electrical goods, which is not appropriate for return in store.

Head of Environment at the British Retail Consortium and Director of On-Pack Recycling Label Ltd, Bob Gordon, said: "This announcement shows retailers are prepared to go above and beyond what is expected of them to support customers' environmental efforts. We know many consumers want to do their bit for the planet and this move will be a big help.

"Retailers are leading the way in helping customers minimise waste through measures such as reducing the weight of packaging and providing consistent on-pack information. The retail sector has helped to prevent 1.2 million tonnes of food and packaging waste since 2005.

"People visit shops to buy food and new goods. For reasons of hygiene and space, retail premises are not suitable for handling large quantities of waste, but stores already have facilities to recycle carrier bags. They can double the effectiveness of these units by taking plastic films as well. We're pleased to see certain local councils matching this commitment where other waste is concerned."

Defra Minister Lord Henley said: "This is a great move by retailers and exactly the type of initiative that is needed to help people recycle more. People who want to do the right thing and recycle bread packaging and other plastic film can now do so easily and hassle free as they go in to do their shopping."