A Plastic Bag’s 2,000-Mile Journey Shows the Messy Truth About Recycling (2022)

A Plastic Bag’s 2,000-Mile Journey Shows the Messy Truth About Recycling (1)

By Kit Chellel and Wojciech Moskwa
Graphics by Jeremy C.F. Lin and Saxton Randolph

When the British supermarket chain Tesco Plc first started ­collecting plastic bags and wrappers from customers to be recycled in March 2021, Caroline Ragueneau was thrilled. She was working as a retail assistant at a Tesco store in southwest England when the first white deposit boxes appeared, promising to turn what’s typically discarded back into something useful. Plastic is a notorious source of pollution: unsightly on land, deadly to marine wildlife. Ragueneau, 56, an enthusiastic environmentalist, proudly told friends about the initiative.

In August, Tesco announced it was expanding the pilotto all its biggest outlets. Shoppers from Cornwall to Cumbria were invited to return snack packets, shopping bags, and vegetable packaging. Soon after, the company rolled out a national advertising campaign, featuring an image of a young father with a baby in his arms and the words: “Recycling soft plastics shouldn’t be hard.”

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The problem was, as Ragueneau knew from her activism, recycling plastic ishard—especially the material Tesco is collecting. Unlike the clear, standardized plastic used in soda bottles, soft plastic can be stretchy or crinkly or colored, or “metalized” with a reflective coating. It needs to be sorted by hand into different grades, so it can be washed, shredded, melted, and filtered for impurities before being turned into new products. This happens to only about 6% of the U.K.’s soft plastic.

Baffled by the claims, Ragueneau emailed her bosses to ask exactly what was being recycled and how. The company didn’t provide her with clear answers. At the store where she worked, she watched as wrinkled crisp packets filled the bins outside and then disappeared into a supposedly sustainable second life. She couldn’t quite fathom how. “I never worked out where they were taking the plastic,” she said.

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(Video) A Plastic Bag’s 2,000-Mile Journey Shows the Messy Truth About Recycling

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(Video) The Truth About Plastic Waste Disposal and Organized Crime

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The only way to know for sure would be to follow the garbage. And that’s exactly what Bloomberg Greenset out to do. We placed tiny digital trackers inside three used plastic items—film that covered some bok choy, a lentil-puff snack pouch, and a Tesco-branded shopping bag—and deposited them in Tesco storefront collection bins around London. The idea was to find out, definitively, what happens to the plastic waste generated by the U.K.’s biggest supermarket chain.

It was the start of a journey that would cross seas and continents, revealing a nether­world of contractors, brokers, and exporters, and a messy reality that looks less like a virtuous circle and more like passing the buck.

Global plastic production, as good a ­barometer as any for humanity’s unstoppable love affair with polymers, began rising exponentially in the 1950sand has now reached almost half a billion tons a year. For a long time, the simplest way to deal with the virtually indestructible stuff was to send it to China. But when Beijing banned imports of foreign wastein 2017, the disposal market was thrown into turmoil. Shipments piled up with nowhere to go.

The British government, already under pressure from voters to tackle ocean pollution, turned to a state-backed charitable organization called the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). The group has no statutory powers but helps the government draft legislation, distribute grants, and engage with the private sector in search of solutions.

Four years ago, Tesco was among 42 large companies that voluntarily signed on to WRAP’s U.K. Plastics Pact, pledging to eliminate unnecessary wrapping, stop using unrecyclable plastic, and include at least 30% recycled material in new packaging. One challenge for signatories was getting hold of waste to recycle, since that was supposed to be done by public agencies, and few of those were collecting plastic. In 2020, WRAP hosted a series of meetings between government officials and industry representatives, some of whom expressed concern about the lack of recycling facilities in the U.K., according to minutes provided to Bloomberg Greenthrough a Freedom of Information Act request. Others at the meeting urged that any new measures shouldn’t place too large a burden on the private sector. (Who said what exactly isn’t clear; the names of the speakers were redacted.)

Last year, WRAP published its recommendation that “retailer take-back recycling schemes provide an interim solution,” at least until local governments could take over. This was exactly what Tesco was already doing with its pilot, and soon afterward the supermarket’s soft-­plastic deposit points were expanded nationwide.

Some environmental activists argue that ­reusable plastic is a myth, promoted by companies that sell plastic to encourage consumers to buy more and feel good about it. On the other hand, virtually every major retailer and industrial plastic producer has endorsed the benefits of the so-called circular economy, where synthetic materials can be used and reused over and over again, providing jobs and preserving natural resources. It’s hard for consumers to know the truth because they don’t see what happens to plastic once it leaves the recycling bin.

Tracking Devices Reveal Where Recycling Really Goes

Tracking Devices Reveal Where Recycling Really Goes

The digital trackers we tucked into the trash at Tesco quickly started mapping a previously hidden ecosystem. The first device, inside clear vegetable wrap, circled London’s road system before disappearing. It last broadcast its location from the banks of the Thames.

The two other trackers, concealed inside the lentil-puff pouch and the Tesco-branded bag, took different routes to giant out-of-town logistics depots, where they were loaded onto trucks and driven to Harwich International Port on England’s east coast. There the trackers boarded ships bound for continental Europe. After arriving in Rotterdam, both devices struck east, traversing Germany within 24 hours before entering Polish territory and coming to a halt within a few feet of each other.

The Tesco trash was now about 700 miles from London.

Zielona Gora, a town not far from Poland’s border with Germany, is a sleepy place with cobbled streets, an old church, and a museum featuring a display of medieval torture devices. Every day, truckloads of garbage arrive from across Europe, including from Tesco and other supermarkets in the U.K. It’s all headed for a shabby industrial estate on the edge of town that’s home to the Eurokey Recycling Group waste processing center.

Despite its name, Eurokey doesn’t do much recycling itself. The company is a “waste broker,” hired to take, transport, and sort rubbish to be sent on to other contractors or buyers, who can either use it or dispose of it as they see fit. In layman’s terms, Eurokey is a middleman; its warehouse is a stopover point for plastic on its way somewhere else. When we visited in January, we found a long industrial building with dirty windows that obscured the interior and a queue of trucks in a potholed parking lot. In a gated yard out back, bales of plastic film could be seen piled at least 30 feet high, patrolled by a yellow forklift and a solitary stray cat.

Waste-Broker Facility Near Zielona Gora

The tracker placed in the lentil-snack pouch pinged from a town in western Poland

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(Video) Repak Team Green Press Conference - Now all plastics can go into the recycling bin!

The mayor of Zielona Gora, Janusz Kubicki, is aware his town receives a steady stream of garbage from the U.K. His office is involved in a legal dispute with Eurokey alleging that it stores rubbish outside in breach of the terms of its license. (Eurokey denies the claim, which a spokesperson said “has nothing to do with the way we process waste material.”)

Kubicki would like the company to leave town, but it’s the regional authorities, he said, who are in charge of permits. The mayor has a simple explanation for why waste comes to his town from the other side of Europe: cost. The price of disposing of plastic in the U.K. or Germany is high. “Here it is superlow,” he said. “All the way in between is profit for someone.”

He also has a method for gauging how much money is being made by the waste entrepreneurs working in the area: Just look at the cars they drive. “You can’t buy a Mercedes with one zloty,” he said ruefully. As for what happens to Tesco plastic once it leaves Zielona Gora, the mayor had no idea.

When it comes to recycling, there’s good plastic and bad plastic. Among soft plastics, the most prized is the clear shrink wrap used to transport pallets of goods to stores. It rarely comes into contact with food or other potential contaminants and is a grade that can easily be reprocessed. Recyclers say this “back-of-store” plastic can be sold at a premium.

At the other end of the scale are candy wrappers and pet-food pouches, which can contain a multitude of ­additives. Several recycling professionals we interviewed referred to this material as “shit” and told us they normally have to pay someone else to take it. There are numerous grades of soft plastic that fall somewhere in between, and all of them can be found jumbled together in Tesco’s recycling bins.

Eurokey’s approach—export, sort, and sell—is helped by government subsidies intended to reward recyclers dealing with waste that would otherwise be unprofitable. The U.K., enacting European regulations, requires any company producing a significant amount of packaging to present vouchers proving that a targeted percentage is being recycled.

These vouchers, known as Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs), are issued to accredited recycling companies. Those selling plastic, such as Tesco, must purchase the vouchers from ­recyclers at the current market price or risk a fine from the ­environmental regulator. This is supposed to make the ­companies that profit from plastic pay some of the cost of recovery. Like most state interventions, however, it’s open to abuse.

The U.K.’s National Audit Office has warned that recovery notes may reward shipping waste overseas rather than processing it at home. That’s because exported trash is treated as if the entire tonnage was being recycled, whereas domestic recyclers get credit for only what comes out after the material is cleaned, filtered, melted, and reformed. By that time the load might be 10% to 15% lighter, according to Iain Ferguson, a former supermarket executive and environmental ­consultant. “It’s a big leg up for exporters,” he said.

The National Audit Office also criticized the lack of transparency and oversight, saying the system has “evolved into a ­comfortable way for government to meet targets without facing up to the under­lying recycling issues.”

PERNs, the export ­equivalent of PRNs, are such big earners for waste brokers that some in the trade jokingly refer to them as “Range Rover vouchers.” The value of the tokens varies depending on demand but has been as high as £480 (about $630) a ton, according to data from the Environment Exchange, a marketplace where they’re traded. Being able to sell PERNs for each ton of plastic exported, even if some of that material doesn’t end up being recycled, allows waste brokers to turn what’s normally a low-­margin business into a more appealing one.

PERNs, the export equivalent of PRNs, are such big earners for waste brokers that some in the trade jokingly refer to them as “Range Rover vouchers.”

For Eurokey’s managing director and former owner Harinder Singh Dhillon, known as John, PERNs would more accurately be described as Ferrari vouchers. The 51-year-old, who races Italian sports cars competitively on the British GT Championship circuit, placing third in 2020, started a company to connect with other like-minded business people through motorsports.

Dhillon’s competitive streak extended to the way he ran Eurokey. On one occasion he was out for dinner at an Indian restaurant in the U.K. when he started haggling with a Polish waiter over the bill, according to two people familiar with the incident. The waiter gave as good as he got. Afterward, Dhillon pulled out a bottle of Polish vodka and asked the man if he wanted a job.

Eurokey used to have sorting facilities in the U.K. A few years after a 2010 fire destroyed the main site, Dhillon decided to move the operation to Poland, retaining a slim management team in the U.K. and benefiting from the lower wages for waste pickers in Eastern Europe. In 2005 the company’s annual revenue was £3.2 million. By 2020 that figure had soared to £52 million, with a healthy profit margin of 16%. Eurokey made enough money that it could purchase a private jet to fly Dhillon around Europe, and in 2015 the Eastern Eyenewspaper ­estimated his net worth at £28 million. (“As a global business, Eurokey determined having a private jet was more cost- and time-effective than using commercial flights,” a company spokesperson said.)

Last year, Dhillon sold his company to Reconomy Group, a larger recycling outfit. The value of the deal wasn’t disclosed; Reconomy and Eurokey, however, secured a £150 million financing deal from lenders to help fund the acquisition.

One of Dhillon’s talents, according to those who worked with him, was building close links with the individuals at major retailers in charge of awarding lucrative waste management contracts. On occasion those efforts went beyond a routine professional relationship. In February 2016, Dhillon took a Tesco manager on a trip to Las Vegas, paid for by Eurokey, according to several people familiar with the excursion. This was a few months after the same Tesco executive was involved in agreeing on a major contract with Eurokey to handle its back-of-store plastic and the same month the supermarket recognized Eurokey with a “procurement award for outstanding performance.”

The executive, who didn’t disclose the outing to his employers in an apparent breach of company guidelines on entertainment, stayed in the five-star Encore resort at Wynn Las Vegas, went on helicopter rides, and visited a shooting range, all at Eurokey’s expense. A Tesco spokesperson said: “We take any allegation of this kind seriously and will investigate fully.”

Reached by phone, Dhillon said he was no longer closely involved in the company’s operations and declined to comment further. Eurokey’s owner, Reconomy, said in a statement it would conduct a “thorough internal review” into the matter.

Tesco, meanwhile, has continued its partnership with Eurokey despite periodic bad publicity. In February, Engineering and Technologymagazine revealed that Eurokey had been sanctioned by the U.K.’s Environment Agencyfor mislabeling waste to get around overseas import restrictions, and for claiming PERNs on material where sampling didn’t support the company’s claims about the content. The agency also warned Eurokey it was not appropriate to claim PERNs on waste exported to Poland if it was then divided up and sent to other locations that hadn’t been approved by regulators.

A Eurokey spokesperson said it doesn’t claim PERNs on any material that’s nonrecyclable. The company, which had its permits suspended for six days before being reinstated, blamed “administrative oversights that were swiftly corrected” and said it may appeal the suspension, while Tesco said it had contacted its supplier about compliance with regulators. As to where Eurokey was sending its plastic, the Environment Agency was unable or unwilling to say. The addresses in its decision notice were redacted.

The tracking device hidden in a snack wrapper began ­moving east again two days after arriving in Zielona Gora. Its final destination was a factory in East Poland run by Stella Pack SA, which manufactures plastic bags. A Stella Pack spokesperson said waste received at the plant is sorted, melted, and granulated into pellets used to make the company’s recycled garbage bags. Any plastic that isn’t suitable, the company said, is burned in an incinerator used to power the facility.

At least some of Tesco’s used plastic makes its way back to consumers in the U.K. The prized back-of-store wrap is ­separated out by Eurokey and driven to Germany, where a company called Papier-Mettler SA reforms it into Tesco-branded bags, to be handed out by checkout clerks in a truly closed loop. But the super­market’s soft-plastic deposit points are full of material that’s considerably more troublesome to reuse.

The tracker we hid inside the Tesco carrier bag stopped working shortly after arriving in Zielona Gora, and we assumed it had been lost. To find out more required some detective work. On a snowy January morning, we followed an unmarked red truck leaving the Eurokey warehouse fully laden to see where it was going. The vehicle rumbled north, past the outstretched arms of the Jesus statue at Swiebodzin. Then, instead of turning west toward Papier-Mettler’s recycling plant, it headed east.

Approached at a truck stop, the driver wasn’t keen to talk to reporters. He was vague about what he was hauling and claimed not to know where he was headed. After another hour being tailed, in what was admittedly a weird, low-speed pursuit, a second man got out and threatened to call the police.

The unmarked truck was a dead end. Its journey, however, had come within a few miles of another lead. Nearby was one of the largest cement factories in the region. If the rumors from environmental activists were true, the Polish cement industry might be burning a significant portion of the plastic waste imported from the U.K.

The steel superstructure of the Lafarge SA cement plant near Inowroclaw could be seen from miles away, towering above the flat expanse of Poland’s heartland. Inside, a rotating kiln runs day and night at as much as 2,000C (3,632F). When we turned up, there was no one available for an interview, but the next day two executives from the company agreed to meet in Warsaw.

Switzerland’s Holcim Ltd., Lafarge’s parent company and one of the world’s biggest cement makers, has a dedicated unit called Geocycle that sources, tests, and processes waste material to be incinerated in cement kilns. The company was happy to discuss what it considers a sustainable solution to the plastic problem.

Waste-to-Energy Plant Near Inowroclaw

The Lafarge cement factory at Inowroclaw gets 80% of its fuel from waste, according to the company, which also says Eurokey is one of its suppliers

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The Lafarge kiln at Inowroclaw now gets 80% of its fuel needs from waste, Geocycle manager Marcin Wojtan said. Not just plastic, but other unwanted material, too. In the searing heat of the kiln, everything is destroyed, even the harmful toxins normally released when plastic is burned. That’s why Lafarge considers it a clean technology. “The cement industry is the final solution for the rest of the waste that’s not possible to use in the recycling industry,” Wojtan said.

Critics of waste-to-energyare quick to point out that burning plastic replaces one problem—too much rubbish—with another, carbon dioxide emissionsthat accelerate global warming. Plastic is made from fossil fuel byproducts; incinerating it has a climate impact similar to that of burning crude oil. Lafarge is working to reduce its emissions by using fewer natural resources, Wojtan said. Burning waste, he argued, is cleaner than burning coal, the cement industry’s traditional power source.

Geocycle confirmed that Eurokey was one of its suppliers, though it deals with it through a broker. Wojtan said Geocycle had no way of knowing whether any of the plastic came from U.K. supermarkets. “We don’t control that,” he said.

A Eurokey spokesperson said only a “very small” percentage of its supermarket soft plastic isn’t recyclable and gets burned for energy, though the company declined to give a specific figure.

There is, in fact, so much surplus garbage in Polandthat Lafarge doesn’t need to pay for this kind of fuel. The money goes the other way. Waste brokers have to pay fees to cement makers for taking the least valuable plastic. It’s a great deal for the cement industry and an appealing option for Eurokey and others, as long as that fee is lower than the cost of using landfill.

There is, in fact, so much surplus garbage in Poland that Lafarge doesn’t need to pay for this kind of fuel. The money goes the other way.

Tesco has publicly pledged that none of its packaging will end up being buried. But two former Eurokey employees in Poland say they saw the lowest-­quality material disposed of in precisely this way at local sites. Poland has strict rules governing what can be landfilled. After sorting through imported plastic at Zielona Gora, the former employees said, Eurokey and its sub­contractors documented some of what’s left over as Polish domestic waste so it would qualify. Technically, the paperwork was accurate, because the material came from Eurokey’s Zielona Gora operation, a legal entity registered in Poland.

“We do not send material to landfill and have zero records of Tesco material sorted by Eurokey ever going to landfill,” a Eurokey spokesperson said. “We will thoroughly investigate any claims otherwise.”

To manage the sheer volume of trash coming from the U.K., Eurokey’s managers must constantly find outlets to prevent their warehouses from overflowing. If landfill isn’t an option, or cement kilns are too costly, Eurokey has another solution for unwanted plastic. Export it again.

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(Video) Sen. Padilla - Plastic Bag Phase-Out Press Conference

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In late January, after two months of silence, the digital tracker inside the Tesco plastic bag pinged its location—in southern Turkey. The bag had found its way from Zielona Gora to an industrial zone near Adana, roughly 2,000 miles from the start of its journey in London.

When one of our colleagues visited the site, bales of mixed plastic were stacked haphazardly outside an unmarked warehouse. The material, grayed by age and hanging in loose strands, swayed in the wind. There was wrap in various colors, with labels from goods sold in Croatia and Italy. Some of it appeared stained by dirt or food.

Soon a man arrived and explained that he was the manager. His recycling company, IMO Plastik, had purchased the bales from around Europe and shipped them here, via the nearby port of Mersin. He seemed disappointed with the low quality of what had arrived. Still, he said he would recycle what he could. He guessed he could recover 90% of the material.

Several experts who viewed images of the plastic bales in the yard thought this was an ambitious estimate. Later, when reached by phone, the same manager denied accepting exports and said his company only dealt with Turkish domestic waste. Whatever the outcome, it seemed unlikely the Tesco bag would make its way back into the closed recycling loop advertised in bold letters on the product itself: “Reuse. Repeat.”

Recycling Warehouse in Southern Turkey

After weeks without a ping, the tracker in the Tesco bag broadcast its location from an industrial estate near Adana, Turkey

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That, in a nutshell, is the problem with exporting plastic garbage using brokers. The producer of the waste, Tesco, loses control of where it ends up. The U.K. shipped an average of 575 tons of plastic rubbish to Turkey every day in 2020, even more than it sent to Poland. The effect is to pass on responsibility for dealing with this hard-to-process trash to poorer nations, straining their waste-disposal infrastructure. And as criminal groups target the $50 billion trade in used plastic, both Poland and Turkey are trying to contain an epidemic of waste fraud.

A common scam across Europe is to take the fee that waste brokers pay to dispose of the lowest-grade plastic, then start a fireto clear it at no cost, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and soil. In Turkey there are roughly two suspicious firesa week at recycling centers, normally at night. Unscrupulous operators are also known to use Syrian refugee camps as a source of cheap labor. According to Zielona Gora’s Mayor Kubicki, some Polish fraudsters establish shell companies to rent warehouse space, fill buildings with worthless plastic, then disappear.

Although there’s no evidence that Eurokey or any of its trading partners are involved in these practices, activists and journalists in Adana have previously found Tesco-branded wrappers at illegal dump sitesonly a few miles from the bag tracker’s final location. Photos from 2021 show a Tesco bag featuring the supermarket’s slogan “Every Little Helps” in a grassy field next to a mound of decaying plastic, as well as Tesco brand roast potato and cocktail sausage wrappers left by the roadside.

There are well-regarded recycling companies in Turkey that can compete with the best in Europe. But when U.K. ­regulators scrutinized Eurokey’s compliance with the rules, the company came up short. In its suspension notice, the Environment Agency said Eurokey had in at least four months of last year exported plastic waste to Turkish sites that weren’t authorized to process the material.

A Eurokey spokesperson said the material it exported, including to Turkey, met regulatory standards and went to reprocessors approved by both U.K. and local authorities, adding that the company “strives for best practices throughout our business and long-term ­relationships with our customers and suppliers based on trust and transparency.”

The practice of exporting garbage isn’t just controversial for the recipient nations. It also fails to achieve its most basic aim: making plastic someone else’s problem. When plastic degrades, it breaks down into microscopic pieces that get everywhere, transported in ocean currents and blown into the atmosphere. Microplasticshave been found at alarming levels in baby poop the world over, as well as the stomachs of earthworms and the snowfall on remote Alpine peaks. The potential health risks of this vast spread remain poorly understood.

Tesco has pitched itself as an eco-friendly retailer since the late 1980s, when shrinking rainforests and a growing hole in the ozone layer led to an outbreak of conscience among spooked consumers. But the discovery that sustainability sells created a problem for supermarkets. By then, ­single-use plastics had woven themselves into the entire economy.

Research has shown that customers will pay more for—and buy more of—the same product if it’s wrapped in transparent film. Vacuum-packed plastic can also keep goods fresh for longer. Recycling offers a convenient solution for companies that have to juggle the public’s desire to help the environment against their desire for cheap, convenient goods.

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Tesco, through trade coalitions and lobbying organizations, has pushed back against legislative efforts to restrict or tax plastic packaging while promoting recycling as the optimal solution. In 1994 the supermarket was one of 28 companies that responded to the threat of regulation by proposing a plan to boost recycling with a 1-pence levy on consumer goods sales, the Independentnewspaper reported. The plan allowed for packaging volumes to increase, too.

When the European Union began weighing new rules to increase the levy on plastic producers, several industry groups in 2016 wrote a letter to the British government calling the move a threat to the “economic well-being of the sector.” It was signed by the British Retail Consortium and packaging body INCPEN, both of which count Tesco as a member. A similar letter in 2017 urged for any response to avoid being “overly prescriptive.”

Since the Plastics Pact was signed, the amount of plastic put into the market by the 10 biggest U.K. supermarkets has actually increased.

Tesco says it’s committed to reducing plastic use, as well as recycling, and has eliminated 1.5 billion pieces of plastic from its supply chain since 2019. About two-thirds of the plastic packaging sold in its stores is suitable for routine recycling. (That figure has improved in recent years.) Yet since the Plastics Pact was signed, the amount of plastic put into the market by the 10 biggest U.K. supermarkets has actually increased, according to research by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace.

“We believe no plastic packaging should end up as waste in the natural environment. That’s why we are committed to creating a system where we minimize single-use plastic and ensure everything we use can be recycled as part of a closed loop,” Tesco said in a statement. Since soft-plastic packaging is crucial for shelf life, “we can’t currently get rid of it altogether.” Collecting consumer soft plastic at stores stops the material going into landfills, the company said.

The U.K. government is planning to overhaul the PRN/PERN system as part of a new plastic tax being implemented this year, though it hasn’t yet published details. Greenpeace campaigner Maja Darlington said the British government should ban exports and halve single-use plastic by 2025. “Often in the plastic waste export industry, the answer to why something is happening is that it’s the cheapest option,” she said. “Dumping and burning plastic, burying it in landfill, using it for cheap energy—all of these are arguably quick and dirty solutions to get rid of the plastic and make some quick money.”

Caroline Ragueneau left Tesco last year. When she heard how we followed its rubbish all the way from London to the margins of European waste management, where some was recycled but the rest was burned or shipped off to an uncertain fate, she expressed disgust. “When I first started with the company, the ethos seemed really good,” she said. Now she no longer even shops there. She prefers to spend her money at other retailers whose promises about recycling she finds more believable.

With assistance from: Burhan Yuksekkas and Nimet Kirac

(Video) Watch: TODAY All Day - Sept. 29

Editors: Amanda Kolson Hurley and Yue Qiu

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FAQs

What happens to soft plastic recycling? ›

Once collected, the soft plastics recycling is sent to a facility where it's washed, sorted, and processed before it's turned into new packaging. The new plastics will be used to pack food and household and beauty products.

What happens to soft plastic recycled by Tesco? ›

The second tracking device began moving again after two days and ended up in a factory in East Poland which manufactures recycled rubbish bags. Any plastic that isn't suitable for recycling is burned and used to power the facility. Tesco has previously pledged that none of its packaging will end up being buried.

Where does much of the plastic that is thrown away end up? ›

Plastic you put in the bin ends up in landfill. When rubbish is being transported to landfill, plastic is often blown away because it's so lightweight. From there, it can eventually clutter around drains and enter rivers and the sea this way.

Are Tesco still recycling crisp packets? ›

Throw it our way. Recycle your salad bags, crisp packets and more. Find our soft plastic recycling points in all our large stores.

How can we reduce soft plastic waste? ›

Say no to disposable plastic cutlery, plastic straws and other single-use plastics. ✘ Avoid plastics that cannot be recycled if other alternatives exist. ✘ Avoid products with excess or unnecessary plastic packaging. ✓ Adopt reusable items such as water bottles, shopping bags, keep cups and travel cutlery.

Why recycling of plastic is difficult? ›

Out of all the materials that end up in our recycling bins, plastic is probably the most difficult to recycle. This is because plastics are composed of several different polymer types. Hence, it's almost impossible to recycle different plastics together as they melt at different temperatures.

How many times can soft plastic be recycled? ›

Every time plastic is recycled, the polymer chain grows shorter, SO ITS QUALITY DECREASES. The same piece of plastic can only be recycled about 2-3 times before its quality decreases to the point where it can no longer be used.

Can you put chip packets in soft plastic recycling? ›

Silver-lined chocolate, chip and snack wrappers

The good news is that those chip packets and chocolate wrappers CAN go in with the rest of your soft plastics.

What could we use instead of plastic? ›

Best Alternatives to Plastic
  • Stainless steel. Tough and easy to clean, stainless steel options for reusable food and beverage storage have multiplied in recent years. ...
  • Glass. ...
  • Platinum silicone. ...
  • Beeswax-coated cloth. ...
  • Natural fiber cloth. ...
  • Wood. ...
  • Bamboo. ...
  • Pottery and Other Ceramics.

Is it worth it to recycle plastic? ›

Yet another problem is that plastic recycling is simply not economical. Recycled plastic costs more than new plastic because collecting, sorting, transporting, and reprocessing plastic waste is exorbitantly expensive. The petrochemical industry is rapidly expanding, which will further lower the cost of new plastic.

Is recycling plastic bad for the environment? ›

The more we recycle, the less garbage winds up in our landfills and incineration plants. By reusing aluminum, paper, glass, plastics, and other materials, we can save production and energy costs, and reduce the negative impacts that the extraction and processing of virgin materials has on the environment.

Are potato chip packets recyclable? ›

Yes, the thin foil-like plastic sleeves and packets that some biscuits, chocolate bars, crackers and chips come in are fine to be recycled via REDcycle.

Are Doritos crisp packets recyclable? ›

How to recycle crisp packets. Crisp packets are not currently recyclable in home recycling collections but can be recycled along with plastic bags and wrapping at selected retailers - find your nearest below. Crisp packets can also be via Terracycle's Crisp Packet Recycling Scheme.

Do supermarkets really recycle soft plastics? ›

Soft plastics, plastic films, plastic bags and wrapping, flexible plastics – whatever you call them; these can now be recycled at your local supermarket. Out of 311,000 tonnes of plastic wrapping that is placed on our shelves, only 6% is recycled.

What is the best solution for the problem of plastic bags? ›

Reduce the number of bags you use and reuse plastic bags

Actions you can take include: Reduce your use of disposable shopping bags by using a reusable bag or container when shopping. Reuse old plastic bags for multiple shopping trips. Re-purpose plastic bags as trash liners or pet waste bags.

Why we should go plastic free? ›

Plastic sticks around in the environment for ages, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins. Plastic also contributes to global warming (almost all plastics are made from chemicals that come from the production of planet-warming fuels like gas, oil and even coal).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of recycling plastics? ›

Plastic Recycling helps to reduce energy usage, It reduces the consumption of fresh raw materials, It reduces the water pollution and air pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for conventional waste disposal and it reduces greenhouse gases emissions.

What are 3 problems caused by plastics? ›

The growing rate of plastic production raises problems in many areas of our society. It's contributing to waste and pollution issues, it's impacting our health, and it's threatening our oceans and wildlife.

Why is plastic harmful to the environment? ›

How does plastic harm the environment? Plastic sticks around in the environment for ages, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins. Plastic also contributes to global warming. Almost all plastics are made from chemicals that come from the production of planet-warming fuels (gas, oil and even coal).

Can I reuse 2 plastic? ›

If you happen across a water bottle marked with a “2,” you can reuse it as long as it's washed well and not cracked or otherwise damaged. This type of plastic is a low risk for chemical leaching.

Can you have 100% recycled plastic? ›

"[Our] recycling of waste plastic into virgin-equivalent feedstocks provides the ingredients to create 100% recycled plastics with no limit to the number of times the same material can be recycled – decoupling plastic production from fossil resource and entering plastic into a circular economy," says Mahon.

Is there 100% recycled plastic? ›

Yes, many things are made from 100% recycled plastic; but that is not the real issue. Once plastic goes into someone's garbage it costs far more than the plastic is worth to recycle it. That is the issue. Every plastic processing operation produces plastic waste and virtually all of that waste is recycled.

Are soft plastics good for fishing? ›

Fishing with soft plastics is an amazing way to target fish. Moving around on the hunt for fish as opposed to sitting and waiting for the bite is a thrill. Feeling the fish strike as you work the soft plastic with the rod in your hand. Learning to catch fish deep within the structure.

Can coffee bags be recycled? ›

If your coffee bag is made only of paper, it can be recycled. If it is paper coated with a thin plastic film, like coffee cups are, it cannot be recycled because the mixed materials cannot be separated. Coffee bags made of plastic also cannot be recycled.

Which soft plastics can be recycled? ›

Selected stores of major supermarkets also accept:
  • Baby, pet food, detergent and cleaning pouches.
  • Biscuits and chocolate wrapping.
  • Cheese, fish and meat wrapping.
  • Cling film.
  • Crisp and sweet bags.
  • Plastic film lids.
  • Bubble wrap.
  • Salad, pasta, and rice bags.

Can hard and soft plastic be recycled? ›

All plastic packaging including soft plastics (that you can scrunch in your hand)and rigid (hard) plastics can go in your recycling bin provided it is Clean, Dry & Loose.

Can we live without plastic? ›

Say goodbye to single-use plastics

Plastic cups, straws and bottles (along with bags) are some of the most environmentally harmful products. They can't be recycled and take centuries to disintegrate. There are many sustainable alternatives to these products in materials such as bamboo, paper and ceramics.

What are the main benefits of recycling plastics? ›

Recycling a ton of plastic saves energy equal to 5.774 kWh. That's the equivalent to the amount of energy consumed by two people for a year. Reduced petroleum use. It's estimated up to 40 percent of oil consumption could be reduced through recycling plastic waste.

Is it better to recycle or reduce? ›

Reducing uses fewer resources.

It takes a lot of energy to recycle materials into new products. In fact, the energy expenditure in recycling can be more than what it takes to produce products from scratch because the process is often more complex.

What is the main problem with plastic? ›

But the problem with plastic is that most of it isn't biodegradable. It doesn't rot, like paper or food, so instead it can hang around in the environment for hundreds of years. Each year, 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that is single-use - plastic we'll only use once before it's binned.

Why is it important to reduce reuse and recycle Brainly? ›

Reducing, reusing and recycling waste helps save landfill space by keeping useful materials out. The amount of energy and natural resources needed to produce or collect the raw materials and manufacture the product are reduced.

Why do people not recycle? ›

It often comes down to confusion and inconvenience. People don't know how to recycle, what can be recycled or what to do with it. The top reason Americans say they don't recycle regularly is a lack of convenient access. Then there's the fact that items put in recycling aren't always recycled.

What percentage of soft plastics get recycled? ›

Despite its prolific use, only about 6% of soft plastic waste is recycled in Australia.

How much of recycled plastic is actually recycled? ›

Many of us consider plastic recycling a great step toward lowering our ecological footprint and protecting the environment. However, less than 10% of plastic waste generated globally has been recycled so far.

How long does it take for soft plastics to decompose? ›

According to BBC Science Focus, biodegradable plastics take only three to six months to fully decompose, far quicker than traditional plastic that can take hundreds of years.

Is it cheaper to make new plastic or recycle? ›

Recycling plastic is not cost-effective… for now

The low value of scrap and high costs of recycling, coupled with low oil prices, means that recycling plastic now costs more than manufacturing virgin plastic.

What plastic should you not reuse? ›

Health advocates advise against reusing bottles made from plastic #1 (polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or PETE), including most disposable water, soda, and juice bottles. Such bottles may be safe for one-time use but reuse should be avoided.

What are the benefits of recycling? ›

Q: What are the environmental benefits of recycling? A: It conserves energy, reduces air and water pollution, reduces greenhouse gases, and conserves natural resources. Stanford recycled, composted, and otherwise source reduced 62% of its waste and reduced landfill by 35%.

Why plastic is a problem? ›

Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics. Nearly every species of seabird eats plastics. Most of the deaths to animals are caused by entanglement or starvation.

What is the future of plastic? ›

Plastic by numbers

At this rate, plastic production is expected to double by 2040 and increase by 2.5 times by 2050. Unless we change how we make and manage plastics, the problem of plastic pollution will keep on growing. In theory, plastics should be readily recycled or at least reused.

When should you throw soft plastics? ›

Soft plastics are ideal for any scenario where you need to put the bait right on the fish's nose to entice a strike. Maybe they are suspended deep. Perfect time to break out the drop shot rig. Maybe they are holding close to the bottom, time for a Texas rig or Ned rig.

What is plastic made of? ›

Plastics are made from natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil through a polymerisation or polycondensation process. Plastics are derived from natural, organic materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and, of course, crude oil.

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