In three months you have deposited about 8kg of empty crisp packets in to our bins at the Club, Nursery and Verlands. I’ve no idea how many packets that actually is, but it’s six really crammed and squidged large bin liners. This means we are about to send off our first batch to Terracycle and, thanks to you, the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance will get a donation.
People power works.
It was through an online petition to Walkers Crisps, signed by a third of a million people together with customers sending back their empty packets, that Walkers – one of the biggest manufacturers of crisps in the world producing 4bn packets a year – were persuaded to launch the first ever nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme in December 2018. Packets get melted down and turned into benches, school playgrounds, fence posts and wheelie bins. And what triggered the online petition? A newspaper article about one boy finding an almost intact 1980s packet on a Cornish beach, with the writing clearly visible after three decades of wind, waves and weather.
A snack that is eaten in a couple of minutes carries a huge ecological cost. Often thrown on to the ground, they blow in the wind and make their way to rivers and the sea. Bags, made of a plastic-foil hybrid material to keep the crisps protected, dry and crunchy, pose a threat to wildlife – from fish to seabirds, seals and dolphins. And, as the packs break down, tiny pieces of micro-plastic are eaten by these creatures and become a hazard all the way along the food chain – eventually to us.
Apparently we Brits eat more crisps than the rest of Europe combined – 6 billion packets a year. Around 20 million are churned out every day in the UK alone, roughly half of them by Walkers. At this rate we’ll easily raise a lot of money for the Air Ambulance.
But recycling obviously isn’t the ultimate solution. Manufacturers need to reduce the amount of plastic they produce in the first place and for that we need a combined and determined effort from industry and government. Walkers, now owned by PepsiCo, has committed to making all their product packaging 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025.
We all have choices when we shop. So what can we do while we wait for industry and politicians to make the necessary changes?
• Support this recycling scheme and encourage our friends and family to take part
• Buy single large packets rather than multipacks
• Up-cycle our bags in to something new – an emergency blanket or purse perhaps – in fact let us know how creative you can be
• Reduce the number of crisps we eat or make our own
So thank you for your contributions and please keep them coming. There are bins at Verlands next door to Woodlea in Long Hill and the Village Club, which is open weekends and evenings and where you will always get a friendly welcome.
We accept Crisp Packets of any make or size – flat and empty please – not scrunched or folded.
Also published in The Woldingham Magazine, February 2020