Sunday 28 November 2021

Most supermarket packaging is difficult or impossible to recycle

The classic broodje kaas, sealed in plastic. Photo: Donald Trung Quoc Don via Wikimedia Commons

Two years into a pledge to phase out non-recyclable packaging, two thirds of the plastic used by supermarkets is still difficult or impossible to recycle, an investigation by environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu has found.

The results of the probe come just a day ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary debate on the circular economy, including the recycling of packaging materials.

Researchers bought products at seven main supermarket chains plus organic food store chain EkoPlaza, all of which signed up to the Plastic Pact in 2019, aimed at banning non-recyclable plastic by 2025.


Some 52% of the packaging looked at by the organisation was party recyclable while 13% could not be recycled at all at all because it is made up of different types of plastic.

Natuur & Milieu director Jelmer Vierstra called the outcome ‘shocking’. Supermarkets and manufacturers must make a greater effort to achieve the aims in the pact,  he said.

‘Packaging has to be recycled into similar material and for a similar application. The quality of the plastics must be maintained. If that is not the case that is not an effective recycling of raw materials.’

The three supermarkets which scored best were Lidl, Albert Heijn and Aldi. Worst offenders were Jumbo and organic food store chain EkoPlaza.

EkoPlaza was bottom of the list because it sells olives and terriyaki meatballs in packaging containing PVC. That is something that has not been used for 15 years, Vierstra said. Moreover, packaging claiming to be ‘compostable’ turned out to contain a type of plastic particularly harmful for the environment, the researchers found.

‘What gets me is that this is a shop which tells consumers they care about sustainability and then goes on to sell this rubbish,’ Vierstra said. A spokesman for EkoPlaza told the paper they would be take the results of the probe to heart.

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