Sunday, May 21, 2017

Whisky - A Recycling Nightmare?

* This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post UK on 19/5/17.

Whisky packaging has been named and shamed as one of the top villains for recycling in a new report from The Recycling Association, the UK’s largest network of independent waste and recycling operators.

The report lists the worst offenders that present the biggest challenges at recycling plants around the UK and whisky packaging makes the top five. It sits alongside Pringles tubes, Lucozade Sport bottles, black plastic meat trays and cleaning product cans on the list of shame.

The common theme is a combination of materials that are difficult to separate, either by consumers or at a recycling facility. This means products need to be taken off conveyor belts manually as they cause confusion to computer scanning devices and then offending materials removed by hand.

In the case of whisky the problem is said to be the combination of metal and cardboard on the outer tube and then the combination of glass and metal cap on the bottle.

“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 makes it very hard for us to recycle properly." 
Simon Ellin, CEO of The Recycling Association.

The report is released to support The Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, a new £1.5 million initiative launched by Prince Charles and promoted by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. This encourages designers to seek innovation in product design to ensure that all materials used can be recycled economically.

Chris Grantham of Ideo, a global design consultancy and one of the competition’s organisers, thinks it is good that offenders are singled out and that designers need to produce items that can be used again and again. Ellin backs this up by stating, “improvements are desperately needed in product design”.

Such an approach will remove potential confusion for consumers and create more environmentally friendly products. It will be interesting to see how the whisky industry takes this on in the highly competitive world of having to stand out on a shop or bar shelf.

Me, like many whisky drinkers had probably never considered this recycling issue or the environmental impact of throwing away used whisky packaging. I was surprised to see whisky on the hit list alongside more expected culprits. Does it hint at a much bigger problem for the drinks industry and how it needs to change its approach to packaging?

I, for one, will be now be breaking up my packaging every time a dead bottle needs disposing of. Well, at least until I do not have to anymore.

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