Crisp bags are a challenge when it comes to recycling packaging. Producers like PepsiCo are committed to finding alternatives that are better for recycling.
Yet every aspect of the packaging serves a purpose, so it can’t simply be changed, just like that. Through close consultation between Fost Plus, recycling partners and the sector, an interim solution was found via the New Blue Bag. Meanwhile, the sector continues to innovate.
PepsiCo is the market leader for crisps in Belgium, with brands including Lay’s®, Doritos® and Cheetos®. The food company is working closely with Fost Plus on a recycling solution for the iconic crisp bag. The introduction of the New Blue Bag was an important step.
Preventing plastic from becoming waste
‘At PepsiCo, we are striving for a world where packaging need never become waste’, says Elise Demaeght, Public Policy, Government Affairs & Sustainability Advisor Benelux at PepsiCo. ‘We do this by using less plastic, ensuring that our packaging is more suitable for recycling and is recycled more and by constantly reinventing our packaging with new models and materials. Our crisp bags are a great example of how we work on these three pillars.’
‘In 2019, we reduced the size of the Lay’s crisp bags by an average of 1 cm. The consumer has just as many crisps in their bag, but by making the bag smaller we save 550 transport trucks per year. Our next mission is to make the crisp bag fully recyclable in Belgium.’
A solution for every packaging
Fost Plus is working to find a recycling solution for all household packaging on the Belgian market. Today, some 17,000 tonnes of packaging still come onto the market for which there is no recycling solution through our systems. A clear roadmap has been drawn up to seek active solutions by 2025.
‘Our high recycling percentages are due to the uniform and simple sorting message’, says Steven Boussemaere of Fost Plus. ‘So it was important to offer a recycling solution for a packaging that comes onto the market in such large quantities. Consumers can put crisp bags in the New Blue Bag, and meanwhile efforts continue to find an alternative that is more suited to recycling.’
Crisp bags often have a thin protective layer on the inside, to protect the food against light and moisture, and to keep it safe, but at the same time also crunchy and delicious. In addition, the outside is usually printed with brand information and details of nutritional values. Once the product has been consumed, some oil residue can also remain in the bag. All this makes these bags, although recyclable, less interesting for the recycling system than transparent bags. So the sector is committed not just to continuing to invest in constantly improving the design, but also on investing in recycling technologies that can process these inks, the protective layer and the residues better. Thanks to close consultation with the recycling sector, processing capacity has now been provided. Crisp bags are now recycled as raw materials for thick-walled injection moulding and extrusion applications, such as ecological garden benches or roadside posts.
‘Every element of the packaging has a function’, Elise Demaeght adds. ‘We have shared the packaging specifications and research from other countries with Fost Plus so that together we can examine how we can retain the useful parts of the packaging and at the same time develop a bag that is widely recyclable.’
Crisp bags are sorted in the mixed film fraction in the sorting centre. This fraction goes to ECO-oh! The Houthalen company was a longstanding recycling partner for mixed soft plastics which, for example, were collected by certain intermunicipal companies in the pink bag. In December, Fost Plus concluded a contract with them for the recycling of the mixed polyolefins and the mixed film fraction.
‘We are constantly innovating. We monitor innovations like this at European level and the research takes time. We are moving in the right direction and are taking our responsibility as market leader’, Elise Demaeght concludes.