Should we be sending dirty nappies in the post instead of crisp packets?

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This week, environmental protesters have hit the headlines for posting their empty crisp packets back to the UK’s largest crisp makers, Walkers – but ready salted snacks aren’t the only offenders.

Thousands of empty packets have been posted to the food giant’s freepost address in a protest designed to highlight the fact that, despite a continued trend towards more environmentally friendly packaging, crisp packets are still not recyclable.

Although the protests have drawn attention, leading business waste management service, BusinessWaste.co.uk, says that protesters haven’t gone far enough.

Mark Hall, Communications Director of BusinessWaste.co.uk, said:

“Enormous companies, including Walkers, respond to financial pressure – while posting crisp packets back to them is a good way to draw media attention for the greater good, ultimately it doesn’t hurt their bottom line, and won’t effect change.”

With over 4 billion packets of crisps produced by the company each year – 11 million per day – its environmental impact is considerable.

In April this year, a young boy discovered a 30 year old crisp packet washed up on a Cornwall beach whilst litter picking[1], highlighting the concerning fact that plastics, such as those used in food packaging, do not biodegrade and remain in the ecosystem for decades. This, plus the disappointing response from Walkers, who pledged only to have replaced their plastic bags with eco-friendly options by 2025, has led consumers to take a stand against the environmentally unfriendly packaging.

Hall added:

“Consumers could really push this issue by making the returns more difficult for Walkers to deal with – for example, by filling the packets with heavier items, just like consumers did to the freepost credit card applications a few years ago. This will be more costly for them to process and, in turn, cause them to address the reason for the protest – which is that, in 2018, it is deeply concerning that a large business continues to use non-recyclable packaging.”

“While this is clearly a pressing issue, other manufacturers are guilty of similar lack of care. Disposable nappies, the household staple for many families with young children, create millions of tonnes of waste per year, with 8 million thrown away per day in the United Kingdom. Not only are they widely used, meaning that billions of individual nappies enter the waste disposal system each year, they also contain non-recyclable plastics which can take hundreds of years to decompose.[2]”
Hall from BusinessWaste.co.uk noted:
“If consumers want to lobby companies who produce widely-use products with damaging environmental footprints, then perhaps they should also be sending nappies back to their manufacturers.
“For hundreds of years before plastic disposable nappies were invented, babies – and the environment – coped perfectly well without them; but their introduction sees millions of tonnes heading to landfill every year, despite there being less harmful and much cheaper options out there.
“Unfortunately, big businesses do not care about finding an ethical solution while consumers are happily using their products. While we know that the convenience of disposables is irreplaceable for many families, perhaps a glut of used nappies sent to the manufacturer – like these crisp packets – might force businesses to take notice of how consumers feel about unethical and environmentally damaging products.”
“We would suggest the answer isn’t posting back used items, it’s not buying those items to begin with”

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