Once you pop, you can’t, well, recycle – at least not easily. That’s the verdict of the UK Recycling Association, which singled out Pringles and Lucozade packaging as the “villains” of recycling.

Pringles and Lucozade bottles, along with products of similar packaging, are the main culprits for being the hardest to recycle. Read on for the ugly, the bad and the good of packaging recycling.

Pringles is typical of modern packaging in that it contains many different materials. The distinctive tube comprises a plastic lid, a foil top and interior, a cardboard sleeve and a metal bottom. As a result, recycling machines struggle to separate them.

The UK Recycling Association has also named and shamed energy drink Lucozade Sport for using a sleeve made from different plastic to its recyclable bottle.

Pringles owner Kelloggs responded, saying there was an environmental advantage to its design, while Lucozade said it was reducing emissions.

Pringles and Lucozade - Compelo

The bad

UK Recycling Association CEO Simon Ellin said: “Improvements are desperately needed in product design.”

Then these are the other items which are hard to recycle –

Cleaning spray bottles: “Labels often say the product is recyclable, but that’s only the body. The spray has two or three other polymers and a metal spring. It’s almost impossible.”

Black plastic food trays: “Supermarkets think black trays make meat look redder so they colour the tray black but that makes it worthless for recycling. Also, if someone leaves the torn film on the tray, with a bloody card below it, we just have to chuck it anyway.”

Whisky packaging: “It grieves me to say this as one who likes his whisky but whisky causes us problems. The metal bottom and top to the sleeve, the glass bottle, the metal cap… very hard for us.”

The good

A new competition, the £1.5 million Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, aims to make products easier to recycle. Promoted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it will encourage innovations in general product design and materials.

Co-organiser Chris Grantham of design consultancy Ideo listed examples of easily-recyclable products.

Milk bottles: “Britain’s milk suppliers got together and agreed that all plastic milk bottles and caps should be made of the same plastic.”

Ringpull can: “When I was a kid the playground was littered with ringpulls that used to cut your knees when you fell.”

Japanese yoghurt drink: “The suppliers have made a little groove in the bottle where you can slide your used straw. It stops it blowing away.

The ‘Expert View’ quote from Matt Rogerson, editor of Packaging & Converting Intelligence: 

“Recycling remains a ‘hot-button’ topic. It is becoming expected on packaging that plastic is recyclable or easy to dispose of. As a result, companies that cannot sustain this will find consumers voting with their feet.”

Read about the latest global packaging news, views and innovations in Packaging & Converting Intelligence and Beverage Packaging Innovation.

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