The decision in February 2022 drew criticism from plastic recyclers, with the plastics recycling charity Recoup saying the move “doesn’t stack up”, and criticised the company for what it perceived to be “very little transparency on the full environmental impacts”.
Other critics added that plastic milk bottles made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) are easier to recycle and available at the kerbside. And, Recoup says that more than 75% of milk bottles are recycled.
The retailer reasoned that fresh milk is one of the single biggest users of plastic packaging within UK supermarkets, accounting for approximately 10% of all plastic used (see letsrecycle.com story). And, it promotes the message that the cartons are 100% “recyclable”.
Cartons form part of the government’s plans for alignment on kerbside collections
– Morrisons spokesperson
The cartons feature “a very thin layer of plastic coating and twist caps made from polyethylene which is derived from sustainably sourced sugarcane”, the retailer said.
Six months on from the move, Morrisons said while it recognises that access to local recycling facilities is not consistent, the cartons are widely recycled and the switch has been well received. It also notes that the cartons have been certified by the Carbon Trust as Carbon Neutral
A Morrisons spokesperson told letsrecycle.com: “We recognise that access to local recycling facilities, at kerbside and elsewhere, is not currently consistent across the country. Cartons are currently collected at kerbside by just under 70% of local authorities, with most other councils offering bring bank services to their residents.”
They added that as “cartons form part of the government’s plans for alignment on kerbside collections across local authorities, we expect the collection of cartons and the supporting infrastructure to continue to improve over time.”
The government’s plans for consistent kerbside collections are still to be finalised, with Defra’s consultation responses not expected until after a new prime minister is elected on 5 September.
In the last consultation, the government said the majority of stakeholders (60%) supported including food and drink cartons.
However, “there was variation by organisation type in the responses, with organisations that identified as waste management companies or local authorities notably lower (48% and 50% respectively)”.