Closing the loop on soft plastics

A little while ago I tried to investigate what happens to all the soft plastics that everyone diligently separates and puts into the recycling bins at major supermarkets in the UK. The information available on the internet is a bit vague, so I asked the supermarkets for more detail. To close the loop on that conversation (#wastepun), I have included all the responses in this post. 

You may have seen this on twitter:

I felt the response on twitter was a little lacklustre, so I also emailed the customer service teams of all the supermarkets mentioned. This is what I sent:


I would like to understand in more detail what happens to the plastic bags and plastic film collected at your stores.
Specifically, which facilities are they sent to for recycling (and whether these are in the UK) and what products are manufactured from the recycled plastic.

Thank you very much in advance for your assistance.

Kind regards,

And here are the responses that I received back from all of the supermarkets:

Dear Kara

Thanks for your patience whilst we’ve investigated this matter for you, we really appreciate it.

Plastic recycled in store is taken back to our depots where a waste collector picks up the plastic, to wash and clean it before turning it into plastic pellets, which are used to manufacture different plastic products. This plastic is all recycled by a UK recycling company.

Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch with us, and we hope to see you shop with us soon.

Kind regards

Sainsbury’s Careline

Hello Miss Brussen,

Thank you for taking your time to contact me.

I wasn’t sure about the answer to your query so I have passed it on to our internal Support Team who have the knowledge and systmes to help. I should get a response from them by Thursday and I will update you accordingly with their findings.

If you require additional information, please do not hesitate to respond to this email and I’ll be more than happy to help you.
Kind regards

Tesco Customer Service

Note: I received nothing further from Tesco.

Hi Kara 

Thank you for contacting us. 

I have contacted our Waste Management Team and they have advised me on the following. I hope this helps! 

Along with the plastic material generated by stores, it is sent back to our depots where it is baled and collected by a U.K recycle company who operates a number of facilities to recycle the material back into useful products such as refuse and carrier bags. 

Kind regards

Customer Assistant
Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC

Dear Kara, 

Thanks for your patience. 

The bags are taken to material recycling facilities that sort our recycling and forward it to recycling reprocessers. The carrier bags are processed into pellets that are added to virgin plastic material and made back into bags.

This is within the UK.

I trust this is helpful.  Should you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get back in touch.

We’re passionate about continually improving the service we offer our customers. If you’d like to feed back on the service I’ve given you, please click on the link below to take part in our quick survey. As a thank you, we’ll also enter you into our monthly prize draw where you could win £500 in gift cards.

Kind regards

Waitrose Customer Care

Hello Kara,

Thanks for getting in touch regarding the plastic film and bags from our Co-op store.

Plastic film and plastic bags are collected from our stores. This is backhauled to our depots across the country.

This plastic is baled at our depots placed on vehicles and removed by our preferred contractor J and A Young.

27% of the material used in the manufacture of our carrier bags for life. The remaining material is used to manufacture pellets and used within the UK.

Since China closed the door on the material our contractor has stopped paying revenue for the material due to the fact the operation requires labour and machinery.

The pellets produced will go in to making black sacks and the likes.

I do hope this answers your query 


Member & Customer Services Co-op

Hi Kara,

Thanks for your email about the plastic bags and film that we have bins for in our stores to recycle.

I can advise that the plastic that is recycled is then turned into our bags for life. Anything that can’t be reused in stores will be sent to out Asda Recycling centres and this link will provide more information and a flowchart of what items we recycle and how:

Our sustainability website is full of lots of information that I think you would find useful. Here’s a link to all our articles that we have about recycling:

I hope that this information is useful for you and if you need to contact us further you’re welcome to call us on 0800 952 0101.

Many Thanks,

Asda Service Team

Some interesting responses there, and all saying really good things! I just hope that the bags are going where they say they are going!


Back to Top