On the right is a bottle of Comfort fabric softener I bought recently. On the left is the empty one which it replaced. The old bottle, when finished, could be rinsed out and tossed straight into the green recycling bin. Top marks. However, the new one, although made of recyclable PET plastic, has a plastic film cover, which can’t be recycled.
Many people don’t know this so they toss them in the recycling anyway. But some recyclers haven’t got a mechanism to process these bottles, and so they get thrown into landfill or incinerated. The most notorious of these items is Lucozade, although this is soon to be rectified according to this report. About time too.
So what am I supposed to do about my Comfort bottle? The answer is on the bottle, in a script typeface supposed to encourage user interaction.
“Unzip here to undress the bottle for recycling.” I’ll ignore the twee language for the moment (part of the trend towards infantilism too common amongst today’s copywriters). Many punters won’t read the instruction, and many more will just not bother. Net result, fewer bottles recycled. In my view, anything that makes the act of recycling harder is going to reduce the numbers sent forward. This should mean companies should work to remove aluminium foil linings on cardboard pizza boxes, plastic film on PET bottles and plastic lamination on magazine covers (to name just three). And don’t get me started on those Pringle’s Crisps tubes. A plastic lid, an aluminium and cardboard tube with a steel collar and a foil sealer. The whole thing is a “recycling nightmare”, according to this 2020 BBC report on trials of new packaging. Some 90% is paper, but “around 10% is a polyal (plastic) barrier that seals the interior to protect the food against oxygen and moisture which would damage the taste.” And it may well still have a plastic lid. More plastic rubbish for easy dumping on our beaches or parks.
So what possessed a big company like Unilever to take the backward step on its Comfort bottles? Especially one which promotes its work for sustainability with a special page on its website.
I should be interested to find out more.