It was crunch time for Britain’s biggest crisp company when this granddad from Pontypridd launched a crusade to stop crisp packets ending up in landfill that took him to the PepsiCo headquarters in London
It’s not always easy to tell what can and can’t be recycled, as Geraint Ashcroft realised as he scanned the back of his packet of Walkers crisps one day, in 2018. With no clear information on offer, the retired teacher checked his local council website and discovered the packets couldn’t be recycled, and were left to fill up landfill sites or litter our beaches and countryside.
Geraint was horrified to discover the scale of the problem. With Walkers producing more than 7,000 non-recyclable crisp packets every minute, that could mean another 28bn plastic crisp packets by 2025 – the date by which the company had pledged to make its crisp packets 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.
For Geraint, this just wasn’t good enough, so he set up his petition, telling Walkers to ditch the wasteful plastic packaging without delay.
He told Wales Online: “For the first months it was slow, with only 5,000 signatures. Then there was an article about a packet on a beach in Cornwall and that got a lot of publicity. 38 Degrees picked up on the petition and helped me promote it and it took off.
“A lot of people thought you could recycle them but a few wise ones know. Most people didn’t realise and thought they’re plastic so you can recycle it.”
With hundreds of thousands of people on board, Geraint worked with the 38 Degrees’ team to amp up the campaign. Customers began posting their empty packets through the post to Walker’s freepost address, forcing the company to take responsibility for the mess they were creating.
This stunt caught the public eye, featuring in national and international news, and leading to Geraint appearing on TV shows like The One Show. With this much attention focused on them, Walkers bosses knew they had to do something, and Geraint was invited to meet with executives at Wakers’ parent company Pepsico.
In October 2018, just months after Gertain started his campaign, Walkers announced a brand new scheme to recycle crisp packets. It means fewer plastic packs going to landfill or washing up on our beaches. And it’s all down to Geraint and the hundreds of thousands of people who backed his campaign, making headlines and piling on pressure to make the change. Now, Walkers say crisp packets can be recycled alongside other flexible plastics, like bread packaging, at supermarkets across the country.
There’s still more to do, with work still needed to make sure the packets can be recycled alongside other household rubbish. But in the years since Geraint forced the change, Walkers says millions of crisp packets have been recycled, transformed into plant pots, playgrounds, park benches and even the foundations of a community football pitch.