Singling out Pringles as ‘number one recycling offender’ won’t encourage lasting change, says pack science director

* 2 min read


Pringles have hit the headlines as The Recycling Association’s ‘number one recycling villain’. But how do you strike a balance between product protection and sustainability? Our pack science director Gillian Garside-Wight says the government has a lot to answer for.

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“I don’t think naming and shaming is ever the best policy for encouraging positive change as this can be damaging and prompt a defensive reaction rather than a proactive response; industry and government collaboration is the key to responsible packaging solutions.

However, why do brand leaders need to change when sales are good and the UK infrastructure for recycling is fragmented and inconsistent (which makes design and material specification with recycling as an objective a “no solution fits all” situation)?

There are definitely shortfalls in packaging specification today, but these can only be resolved by industry talking to each other and understanding the impact on the holistic supply chain.

Specifically, Pringles’ composite packs are ‘difficult’ in terms of recyclability but so are packets of crisps as flexibles (bags) aren’t widely recoverable either. Pringles are not the only brand to use composite tubes; there are also increasingly high volumes of this packaging in premium instant coffee where alternative recyclable packaging solutions could be used.

The Pringles tube offers protection to the product; the only current alternative would be a bag in box and the bag still wouldn’t be recyclable and it would be less convenient to the consumer. The key to packaging choice today is to ensure the product is protected and preserved as food waste represents the highest carbon and financial loss – e.g. 1T of CO2e per 1T of food waste.

There will always be the need for ‘difficult’ materials and it’s industry’s and government’s challenge to reduce the use of those materials and design and implement the consistent infrastructure to deal with the challenge of those ‘difficult’ materials that remain out of necessity.”

Need help with your pack structure or advice on making your packaging more sustainable? Drop us a line at or call 01274 200 700.