New investigation finds that up to 29% of supermarket plastic packaging is non-recyclable

Supermarket aisle

Consumer group Which? has found that up to 29% of plastic packaging used by supermarkets is either non-recyclable or difficult to recycle in its latest investigation. 

From this, it has called on the Government to make simple recycling labels compulsory.  


Which? examined the packaging of a shopping basket of 27 everyday own-brand items at ten supermarkets and found that Lidl had the lowest proportion of widely recyclable packaging (71%).  

Iceland (73%), Ocado (74%) and Sainsbury’s (75%) were also near the bottom of the list.  

Researchers believe that Lidl’s poor performance is due to the use of hard-to-recycle plastic for some foods as top performer Morrisons (81%) had found environmentally-friendly alternatives. 

Some groceries had non-recyclable packaging no matter which store they came from, for example, all the packaged easy-peel oranges came in nets with plastic labels.  

The analysis found that between 4% (Iceland) and 10% (Waitrose) of the packaging studied could only be recycled at supermarket collection points or “bring banks” rather than at the kerbside, which was not always made clear on the labelling. 

Which? researchers said that they were surprised to find inconsistencies, with different systems of labelling used and some items not being labelled at all.  

It’s experts also believed that some products, including M&S and Waitrose apples, were labelled as non-recyclable, but the type of plastic they’re made of is recyclable at supermarket bring banks.  

However, more had labels that were only visible once the food was unwrapped, which is why it is calling on the Government and manufacturers to simplify current recycling labels and make recycling labelling compulsory on all plastic packaging.  

It is also calling on manufacturers to stop using non-recyclable packaging where recyclable options exist.  

Which? director of research and publishing Nikki Stopford said: “Which? believes a lot more can be done to increase the amount of recyclable packaging and the way it is labelled so that consumers know what can be recycled and how to recycle it. 

“The plastic pollution crisis makes it more crucial than ever that the Government, manufacturers and supermarkets do the best they can to banish plastic that cannot be recycled and promote the use of less damaging packaging.” 

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