National Recycling Week
It’s National Recycling week (Organised by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)) and due to the significance of this within the Food to Go category, I thought I would put down a few thoughts.
I have now been at the Coop for 10 weeks and in that time have received a significant number of samples from suppliers. This is obviously a big part of the listing process at a supermarket, however is also in my experience an area of unnecessary waste.
From several suppliers I have received crates of product, rather than just being sent one or two units. Now even with the best intentions I can’t get through 50 iced coffees or milkshakes in a month, let alone in a week.
While I hate to admit this, if I can’t find someone to take them they end up in the bin/ recycling. In addition, there is a significant amount of packaging involved in sending parcels of this volume, which I have to be honest I am struggling to fit in the bins.
In tangent to this I find that just bulk sending samples lacks thought in the current climate and I really do appreciate when suppliers send one or two products, recognising the fact that currently we are all working from home. I often find that getting home to a massive box, to some degree, immediately puts me off.
Stating the obvious, the best solution is not to produce the packaging in the first place, but in the FTG Drinks space this currently isn’t an option. I have had conversations with various suppliers about their views on plastic and the difficulties and costs involved with getting to 100% recycled packaging, but most are on a journey with the ultimate goal in sight.
Now you might ask why brands don’t stop using plastic and instead use cans or glass. I personally think there is a need for plastics in some situations. Products such as juice and smoothies, don’t drink so well out of an aluminium can.
Additionally, while glass doesn’t produce the problems that plastics do, is a lot higher in terms of CO2 production and is more expensive. The resulting price increase is something I don’t think the British consumer is currently behind.
You might see cans becoming a more popular option in the Iced Coffee space leaving only a few brands still using plastic bottles and cups. Some of these remaining products even having a plastic straw attached, which in my opinion doesn’t have a place in the future of the FTG fixture.
On a final point, I am not going to disagree with the fact that on the whole plastic packaging looks better - its much easier to design and print on a plastic sleeve than directly onto an aluminium can, but at the end of the day if something is better for the environment surely its more important.
It is very easy for a supplier to state their product is ‘100% recyclable’ or ‘widely recycled’ but when you dig deeper it’s not quite that simple. Regionally, there are significant differences in what can be recycled and I have experienced this first hand having lived in Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and now Manchester.
Additionally, the very nature of the FTG occasion means the products are consumed ‘on the move’ and recycling opportunities on the streets are limited and in some places non-existent. I will admit I have thrown a sandwich wrapper or a plastic bottle in a conveniently placed bin. So it’s all well and good a product being recyclable, if the infrastructure isn’t there to make it happen!?
I think this is something that could start to take off in the future, with seedlings starting to grow with some brands. Returning bottles which can then be thoroughly cleaned and reused for the same product, ready to be put back on the shelf. It's something that has happened in the past, with a deposit paid that is returned on returning the product. Is this something you could get behind?
I wonder at some point in the future whether there will be a situation where we bring our own bottles to be filled with our favourite drinks, although I must admit it’s hard to understand how this could work in practice. But one thing’s for sure something has to be done and I think companies that aren’t making strides towards a more sustainable way of living are going to get left behind.