New recycling scheme for pet food packaging

Britain is a nation of animal lovers, but the millions of cats and dogs in the UK require millions of pounds worth of food – much of which comes in notoriously hard-to-recycle pouches.

This form of plastic packaging is difficult for processors to sort and treat because they are generally made of multiple thin layers of plastics, adhesive and sealant, ensuring that the product is both strong and flexible. In addition, many contain aluminium linings to protect the food and keep it fresh.

Billions of these pouches end up in the residual waste bin every year – from baby food as well as pet food. Now, Mars Petcare, which owns well-known pet food brands such as Whiskas, Pedigree, Iams and Cesar, has teamed up with recycling company TerraCycle to create a free recycling scheme specifically for pet food pouches.

TerraCycle is behind a wide range of industry-sponsored recycling schemes for niche and hard-to-process products – at the start of November it launched a recycling programme for toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes in partnership with Colgate.

The North American company, which launched in the UK in 2009, collects materials that are not accepted in kerbside schemes and transforms them into new plastic products such as park benches and fence posts. It claims to have diverted more than 50 million items of packaging waste from landfill since its UK launch.

New recycling scheme for pet food packaging The new pet food programme invites pet owners to take their used packaging – including wet and dry pet food pouches and plastic packaging for treats and care products – to a number of designated drop-off points around the UK. People can also send their waste directly to TerraCycle using freepost labels that can be printed from the company’s website.

Food residue from the pouches will be composted – though it is advisable to rinse out the packaging before posting – before the material is pelletised to enable it to be used to make new products.

In an attempt to push a sector-wide solution, Mars Petcare is opening up the scheme further by inviting other pet food manufacturers to join TerraCycle and Mars to develop the programme and its impact through wider collaboration.
Deri Watkins, Managing Director Mars Petcare UK, commented: “The pet care category is a uniquely emotive one and we know that pet owners are some of the most engaged and passionate consumers when it comes to issues that affect animals and our planet. That’s why it is critical that the petfood industry responds to the challenges around recycling and plastic waste. Businesses like ours need to pioneer new responses to this problem and our new partnership with TerraCycle is an important part of this.

“However, if we want lasting change we cannot do it alone. As an industry, we are stronger when we work together to tackle common problems. That’s why we want to open up this programme and are inviting other pet food manufacturers to partner with us and TerraCycle to develop the Pet Food Recycling Programme and expand its impact through wider collaboration. Together, we can develop innovative packaging solutions and dramatically reduce the environmental impact of the pet food industry.”

While a recycling scheme for this type of packaging will be welcomed, it is questionable whether such programmes make a significant impact on the amount of waste produced. TerraCycle already has a similar scheme in place to collect Ella’s Kitchen brand baby food pouches, but the company admitted this programme has only recycled 1.9 million pouches in seven years – less than one per cent of the pouches it had produced in that time, according to The Times.

Mars Petcare has stated that its scheme with TerraCycle is intended to be a short-term solution, as the company aims to makes sure all of its packaging is widely recyclable by 2025.

For more information on the pet food packaging recycling programme and how you can start using it, visit the TerraCycle website.

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