Action: Only buy if packaging can be recycled

We start this year with an action that sounds simple, but is one of the most effective things you can do: try and avoid buying, and using, what isn’t recyclable.

This is especially true of plastic packaging.

OK … we all know that pragmatism means there is a balance to be had. The chances that we can recycle or reuse literally EVERYTHING is pretty minimal. But we can shift the balance, and very significantly at that.

And can consumer choice make a difference? Yes of course it can, and here’s a good example.

Pringles new can trial
New style cans

Not so long ago, the Pringles can, with its cardboard outer, polymer and aluminium inner lining, steel base, foil tear-off lid and plastic cap, was dubbed “number one recycling villain” by the UK’s Recycling Association, which said that the mix of materials make sorting it virtually impossible. These consumer concerns, and the resulting mainstream media coverage, has forced a rethink, and Kellogg’s have been trialing recyclable cans (pictured) as a result.

Good on them for sure, but really it’s often consumer and commercial pressure that leads companies to do what is right.

Why is this important?

If you avoid buying a product that does damage this can have a number of impacts:

  • it reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill
  • it puts pressure on manufacturers to use recyclable materials
  • it switches consumer support to products that are more environmentally friendly
  • it turns the media spotlight onto sustainability issues
  • it gets the attention of policy makers and decision makers, even politicians
  • it’s an easy, no-cost way of making your voice heard

So when you are shopping, just pause for a moment and think about the products and brands that we buy. Is the product in the non-recyclable plastic packaging an essential? Is there an alternative product or brand? What is it that is making me want to buy that particular item, and do I really have to?

fruit in netting

As examples, here are a few things to avoid – and maybe you could add your ideas of “things not to buy”, we’d love to hear from you and learn from you on our social media channels.

  • Fruit and onions in nylon nets – these are not recyclable, and damaging to wildlife too (pictured)
  • Sports drink bottles wrapped in a layer of additional, different plastic
  • Cleaning spray bottles – the metal springs inside make recycling difficult
  • Convenience foods in black plastic trays – black cannot be sorted by recycling machines
  • Crisps and snacks in metalised plastic “foil” bags and packets
  • Metalised or glitter coated gift wrap – use paper wrap which recycles easily
  • Greetings cards with foil, glitter, ribbons etc – they foul the recycling
  • Fancy gift packaged spirits – those tubes with metal ends are a no-no!
  • Tea bags! Most cannot be recycled or composted, but loose leaf tea can!
  • Cling film! Who needs it? Use and re-use tubs, cover plates with plates, or use recyclable foil

We could go on, but rather we hope you will pick up this discussion with your suggestions of what NOT to buy on social media. Find us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

If you haven’t done so already, please sign up to our bulletin “Take Action” using the form below, and thank you for your support.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top