Recycling plastic packaging/wrappers

I’d estimate that most of my ‘black bin’ waste is disposable plastic packaging mainly from foodstuffs, the majority in my view also quite unnecessary. I try to buy loose vegetables and avoid the ‘freebie compostable bags’ but so many items are just not available loose.

I may be behind the times but am increasingly seeing plastic ‘wrappers’ with a ‘recycle with bags at larger supermarkets’ type logo, but numbers of items with such labelling are few.

Is this a pretty new initiative or has it just been so poorly publicised that hardly anyone knows about it?

Either way it’s still quite a faff to have to separately collect, store and return such items, so much so that Mrs AC generally just ‘cleans up’ and disposes of them anyway in the black bin waste if there’s room.

I can’t help feeling that the supermarkets may be virtue signalling a little without actually promoting the services and I certainly couldn’t find anywhere to recycle such waste at a local supermarket earlier despite the website page saying it had the facilities to do so.

We collect flexible plastic bags, packaging, crisp packets, milk bottle sleeves etc. in a larger bag, then when it’s full, take it to Tesco in town. Tesco has a large container at the front of the store, behind the tills, where customers and others (we’re not Tesco customers) are invited to deposit bags of bags.

Where it goes next I don’t know. Let’s hope it’s not Bangladesh or some other country less able to deal with this waste than our own.


That’s one of the issues - many of us diligently sort recyclable waste from supposedly non-recyclable then you find out a local authority incinerates most of it anyway!

One of my bugbears with recycling quotas is that in order for councils to hit recycling targets it perpetuates the need for lots of unnecessary packaging to keep the recycled %ages up.

If we lost 50% of superfluous recyclable packaging entirely it would adversely affect the ‘quotas/targets’ as less proportionately would be recycled other factors staying constant. The quotas don’t seem to take into account simply not having that unneeded packaging in the first place.

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As a Saturday job back in my teens, I worked in a couple of greengrocers and was quite handy as loading the paper bags then swinging them around to put a twist in each open corner.

Last week I was in Morrisons, and saw the paper bags so full of confidence, filled it with carrots, swung it around, and yes you guessed it, bag split and carrots flew everywhere. Tried bag number two with a smaller swing, and bag split again. Finally on third I just folded the top, but even then, by the time I got to the checkout, the bag had split. So great idea, but too thin to be of any use.

Incidentally I do have a carrier bag full of plastic wrappers ready to go to Tescos


Our local Tesco was one of ten stores involved in a project in 2019, collecting “soft” plastics such as pet food pouches, crisp packets, they were sent to Swindon firm Recycling Technologies who turn them into oil to make more plastic. The experiment has ended, but I believe the collection has been greatly extended.
Some Superdrug stores will take medicine packaging.

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It makes no sense for restaurants to hand out plastic wares for carryout to be consumed at home. Such a waste. I wish they’d stop doing that and only give them out when requested.

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It looks like all Tesco large stores now allow plastic recycling of various types

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I’ve found that with their bags too, so often don’t bother. Waitrose do clear bags which can be repurposed as compostable food waste caddy liners, which is handy. That said I often simply put veg items loose in the trolley and just stick them all in a sturdy reusable bag at the checkout. I find it a little amusing when occasionally the person at the checkout for example weighs 3 onions separately rather than all together which they would if bagged. The only advantage in doing so that I can see is that the supermarket might get an insight on preferred weight of individual items of produce from a consumer viewpoint but only if the transactions identified single items were weighed.

It’s pet food pouches and crisp packets that prompted me to look at this again more recently, a few years ago it just wasn’t as practical to try to recycle and local authorities generally don’t. Rinsing out and there storing wet pet food/crisp packets I find a bit of a chore. Switched to pet food in foil cartons briefly as they’d be accepted in council recycling bags.

Things seem to be changing though even if materials haven’t, for example I finished a pack of open frozen peas with a ‘recycle at larger supermarkets’ logo last night, but opened an older one from the same supermarket to have enough portions and no such logo on the older pack. Packaging material changed or not I wonder?

I just don’t think these initiatives have been promoted as well as they might. Perhaps they are currently small scale and could be overwhelmed it far more people did it early on?

I think it’s right that we should be putting the burden for recycling such materials on the producers and vendors rather than local authorities as if nothing else it might reduce superfluous packaging which was virtually non-existent when many of us grew up, though of course back then everything just went in a single bin with no attempt to recycle anything especially tins/metal cans/containers. We did have money back on returned empty glass bottles though.

Plastic bags come from plants that died many millions of years ago. Paper bags come from live trees that we have cut down. I’m not sure that is a step in the right direction. For me the solution is simple, just don’t put stuff in bags.


I think I saw that a few weeks ago when looking for local recycling points.

I don’t watch much TV or listen to commercial radio, but you’d think this would be an appealing service to promote to the masses. Unless I’ve missed a ‘campaign’ it would seem you only know if you actively look at their website specifically for such information. Perhaps another modern marketing fail assuming everyone reads the whole Tesco site content. Perhaps they’ve ‘tweeted’ or used other social media platforms that would have passed me by.

I read some time ago that small or large paper grocery bags (as we often see in supermarkets on US TV) are not as ‘green’ or as good for the environment as we might think.

That said I intrinsically prefer paper bags to plastic or allegedly compostable ones if available. If these are sustainably sourced they may not be so bad.

I’d imagine paper bags are a small percentage of paper if we consider newspaper, books, magazines which many prefer to digital versions, let alone loo roll/paper kitchen towel etc

I often don’t as noted above - it might be marginally slower at the checkout, and the only minor adverse effect is with things such as onions where the skins are cracked and leave debris on the conveyor. Earth on potatoes is no longer an issue and probably why they turn green so quickly these days. Bedding plants are another story.

I still think having cucumbers in shrink wrap plastic is wrong. If you’re not going to use it for 2 weeks don’t buy it! Consume it fresh.

The slurry sausage of the unused forgotten shrink wrapped cucumber is one of the most disgusting things to find in the fridge.

They say in a video here that when they ‘have to use plastic’, they don’t for heaven’s sake.

I not be surprised if it’s more about having a barcode on the product than product longevity.

It is exposure to light that makes them turn green, whether while growing or in storage. The time on open display in a supermarket should be small so irrelevant. And at home they should be kept in a cool dark place (if the cool place is not dark then a closed brown paper bag would be good). Ipresume you know not to eat the green bits as they contain a toxic substance.

Yes, thanks, I was aware that light was the culprit but those old spuds of yesteryear covered in mud you had to scrub clean were probably protected to some extent from the light by the dirt. I may be completely wrong of course and as you say they should be stored in the dark.

The toxic glycoalkaloid solanine is the culprit. in green potatoes when they start photosynthesising from light exposure.

There are certain local supermarkets where I not uncommonly see green potatoes and am amazed they are even on sale. (Stored badly to begin with or simply not selling well?)

My understanding is that lockdowns didn’t help the Tesco project, then our local store had to move their collection point when they discovered other traders in the shopping centre were using it as a dump for their waste.
My pet gripe is prepackaged root veg, recently Waitrose ran an article about the volumes of water used in processing food, yet they have stopped selling dirty potatoes, carrots and parsnips. The pressure or tumble washing bruises the veg, ruins flavour and reduces vitamins and minerals. It isn’t only cucumbers that make mush. Only yesterday I put a complete kilo back of carrots in compost, just 48 hours after purchase there wasn’t one that was usable.
That gives me the quandary, it’s a 16 mile round trip to the farm shop that sells dirty veg, but should I start the car up for that?
Paper is another question, in a recent conversation, in the UK, something like 90% of felled timber goes for woodpulp, over 60% of timber is imported. The amount of timber wasted, to me is criminal, a builders waste pile containing so much usable lengths is burnt or skipped to landfill.
For all of it, the bottom line is cost, we have become a society where food is expected to be cheap, fashion dictates annual change. The image I see is the film Koyaanisqatsi.


I think it’s recycled for energy

That, of course, is relative: and at the moment food is shooting up in price rapidly, indeed has been since Brexit.

Some commodities however are forced unnaturally low by supermarket power, to the detriment of producers and possibly long-term survivability, which is bad - milk is an example. (In my view all countries should strive to be self-sufficient for staples, to be able to weather global supply issues.)

Yes, and that is fundamentally bad - I don’t see it with food, but Certainly other things from bicycles and cars to home, even possibly hi-fi, as well as longstanding clothing fashion.

Presumably Tesco and other supermarkets will accept consumer plastic waste which may not have originated from Tesco’s own range - branded items naturally more difficult to differentiate.

Bagged parsnips are another pet gripe as they often go mushy whereas loose ones simply desiccate a bit but are still usable quite some time later.

Not noticed Waitrose locally have stopped those loose veggies, but would not be surprised.

I don’t think they care based on feedback for various products I’ve given over the years

The amount of food waste which is only very slightly discounted on the use by date at our local store in the bargain aisle is utterly shocking, in fact it’s disgraceful that they regularly overstock items which are almost beyond use by this stage, and if they get sent to food banks i’s also poor as the usage window will be tiny if at all.

There’s also the trend in many supermarkets (M&S especially) to sell items formerly sold by weight by unit price instead, I can’t see this is for the customer’s benefit.

It’s just what we are accustomed to I suppose and I’m a natural cynic.

I don’t mind paying 70p for a cucumber so why should I object to paying 70p for a loose courgette? Primarily because I prefer to pay by weight and the cucumbers are already generally pre-sorted into standard/large sizes which are fairly similar.

Waitrose sells loose peppers by the kilo which is good, but they are probably far cheaper for 45p each in Morrison’s or Aldi etc.

Waitrose’s loose on the vine tomatoes have really gone downhill this year.

Mrs AC mentioned the local Asda now has large banners saying their meat counter is halal - does that mean it has a suitable range or that all the allowed meat on the counter is halal and other customers have no choice?