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Is Pret a Manger packaging recyclable?

I often buy food from Pret when I am in London and have never been very comfortable with the amount of packaging and the fact that much of it doesn’t appear to be recyclable.

I wrote to Pret to ask them for clarity on whether their packaging is recyclable and after a bit of persistence they sent me the following reply, which is incredibly open and honest.  Thank you Pret!

Pret packaging

Pret’s position on recyclable packaging

Response from Pret Customer Services:

“The truthful answer is that all of the items that you mention could be recycled. The reality of recycling (this has been a real journey of understanding for us) is a little disappointing in all honesty. Several factors come into play but the main ones are:

  • What waste streams are available in your immediate area?
  • Plastics are in general highly recyclable – depending on the issues noted below.
  • Most waste collected from waste bins on the street is destined either for landfill or incineration for energy.
  • · Whilst segregated waste is in principal the way forwards, today the level of contamination (from people putting the wrong things in the wrong bins, or just simply not caring) is too high for the end users of the material.
  • What your local municipal waste facilities are. Not all councils have recycling facilities or even if they do, due to contamination of separated waste streams much is rejected.
  • What is the current value of the material as a commodity once ‘recycled’? As an example, right now the value of plastic PET is low so waste companies are making less effort to segregate it.
  • On packaging messaging is complicated and confusing across the industry, so it is really hard to know what to do with stuff notwithstanding the issues noted above.
  • Recycled isn’t always best. Sometime using virgin contact can be less resource intensive and if sourced from sustainable systems (such as FSC woods) can be better.
  • This is why we took the recyclable message off the majority of our packaging. The majority of materials may be recyclable, but in most instances the reality is they don’t actually get recycled.

All in all not a pretty picture. One that we cannot allow to continue. So what are we doing about it?

We have initiated a Life Cycle Analysis of our current packaging, which we intend to share with our competitors. The aim of the review is to identify what the most resource efficient and least environmentally impactful packaging should look like for the future – short, medium and longer term.

We are a founding member of a collaborative group that is seeking solutions that can have meaningful impact – the first priority is to find practical ways that coffee cups can get to appropriate recycling facilities.

We are planning to communicate the output from these things via our website (and hopefully those of our collaborating competitors) and on packaging where suitable and feasible so that consumers have the information to make decisions on where and how to recycle or not and why not.

Packaging plays a really important role in reducing food waste, but we must get better at making it less impactful. We are 100% committed to doing this and we are now making progress.

I hope this helps and thank you for getting in touch.”

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