In an industry first, nationwide pet care business Pets at Home is leading the way by introducing dedicated recycling points for flexible pet food packaging. The new initiative, which is being supported by pet food producers Mars and Purina PetCare, aims to combat flexible packaging waste in the sector, tackling the pet food packaging made of these materials.
Pets at Home has partnered with environmental charity Hubbub to run the trial, which has so far been rolled out across 40 stores and three Vets4Pets practices in the UK. Following the trial, the initiative will be rolled out wider across the country with the aim of having recycling points in the majority of Pets at Home stores by the end of next year.
Working with specialist recycler Enval, who have developed a microwave induced pyrolysis process which easily recycles and recovers flexible, rigid and complex plastics, Pets at Home and its partners are establishing the first store take-back and recycling scheme specifically for pet food packaging.
The process, which is a world-first solution to recycling flexible plastics, involves heating the packaging up to 600 degrees to separate the aluminium and plastics layers. The aluminium is recovered, clean and ready to be recycled and the plastic is converted into oils and gases. The oils can then be reused for other products and in fact Enval is now working with several plastic producers who are aiming to use them as feedstock for new plastic, with the ambition of achieving full circularity.
The gases on the other hand are used in a conventional gas generator to produce the electricity to run the microwaves, thereby making the process self-sustaining. By using electricity to heat up the process it means that the Enval plant doesn’t have a stack or chimney making it clean, efficient and economical for both post-consumer and industrial waste.
Flexible plastics (plastic that can be bent, squeezed or scrunched) represents a quarter of all UK consumer plastic packaging but only 4% is currently recycled.
Jack Hodgkiss, Creative Partner at Hubbub, said: “This trial marks a significant stepping stone towards tackling the issues associated with plastic packaging. Around 44% of UK households have pets1 and most of them don’t have access to flexible plastic recycling through their local council. We are thrilled to be partnering with Pets at Home to make flexible plastic recycling possible for many of the UK’s pet owners.”
Alison Bramfitt, Group Packaging Manager for Purina, said: “Purina’s vision is that none of our packaging ends up in landfill or as litter, we are committed to working towards a waste free future. Currently in the UK only 16%* of councils collect flexible plastic. Collaborating with Pets at Home and Mars allows us to provide our consumers with further recycling options and increases the total amount of flexible plastic that is currently collected and recycled. We also continue to work on innovative solutions that will make our packaging easier to recycle”.
Kim Smet, Interim General Manager for Mars Pet Nutrition UK, said: “We’re delighted to be a partner in this initiative. Supporting the collection and recycling of flexible plastic packaging is an important step in realising our ambition of creating a circular economy where packaging never becomes waste, and ultimately of creating a better world for pets.”
Carlos Ludlow-Palafox, CEO at Enval, said: “Pets at Home is the first retailer we have worked with on a store take-back scheme and we are really looking forward to seeing the results. We are using this trial as a test bed for the future, where we hope to make flexible plastic recycling more accessible for both industrial and consumer waste through installing 50 new plants across the UK in the next five years. Our aim is to make previously unrecyclable plastics valuable, paving the way for environmentally responsible packaging solutions.”
For more information about the trial, visit: https://pearl.csiltd.co.uk/shop/en/pets/recycle#