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Pringles Tube tries to wake up from the ‘recycling nightmare’

New Pringles tubes

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New designs are being tested that still “pop”

; when opened

The distinctive Pringles tube is being redesigned after criticism that it is almost impossible to recycle.

The current potato-based snack container has been condemned as a recycler’s nightmare.

It is a complex construction with a metal base, a plastic cap, a metal tear-off lid, and a foil-lined cardboard sleeve.

The Recycling Association called it the number one recycling bad guy – along with the Lucozade Sports bottle.

Now, Kellogg, the maker of Pringles, is trying a simpler can – although experts say this is not a complete solution.

The existing version is particularly problematic because it combines so many different materials

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Media signatureRoger Harrabin looks at the challenge of Pringles recycling

About 90% of the new can is made of paper. About 10% is a polyal (plastic) barrier that seals the inside to protect the food from oxygen and moisture that would damage the taste.

But how about the lid? Some Tesco stores are testing two options – a recyclable plastic lid and a recyclable paper lid. Kellog says these lids still create the signature “pop” associated with the product.

Simon Ellin of the Recycling Association told BBC News, “The Pringles tube was a bastion of bad design from the perspective of recyclers.

“This new version is an improvement and we broadly welcome it.

“But honestly, if you want to hold onto a plastic lid that only creates problems with plastic pollution – people on picnics leave you behind and find their way into streams and the ocean. That plastic lid has to go.”

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The Recycling Association said many manufacturers need to rethink their packaging

Kellog says the packaging must be airtight or the food it contains will be wasted.

The new designs have been in the making for 12 months. Pringles have a shelf life of 15 months – and three million cans are produced across Europe every day.

Mr Ellin said the polyal-coated card may be recyclable, but the product must be tested in recycling mills.

And what about the much-criticized Lucozade Sports bottle? Mr Ellin said its unchanged basic design is still a big problem because it is difficult for machines to tell the plastic inside the bottle from the plastic that makes up the outer shell.

He called on the manufacturers Suntory to reduce the size of the outer shell, as is the case with the new Ribena bottle.

The company said it plans to do so in the new year.

Suntory said it was working on a new material made entirely from algae extract that would be 100% edible, biodegradable and compostable.

Environmentalists say trivial changes like these won’t solve the world’s ecological crises – but they will do it on a large scale.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

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