Millions of people in England enjoy crisps, but the ingredients are dodgy and the bags are difficult to recycle. The best option is really to make your own crisps. But i you prefer to buy them, here are some better options. The main brands contain factory-farmed animal ingredients and Walkers (which sells 15 million bags a year) is one of the top three brands of litter on our streets, according to Keep Britain Tidy (with only a tiny portion recycled at drop-off Terracycle points). The ‘posh vegetable crisps’ can also contain animal ingredients, and are no easier to recycle. Most also contain lactose (a cheap bulking agent from milk) to replace the banned substance MSG.
Newfangled Potato Crisps?
This was the original name for Pringles, one of the world’s most popular snacks. Apart from not being crisps (they are made from dehydrated processed potato and full of saturated fat), they are also (along with the Lucozade sports bottle – two kinds of plastics so machines can’t recognise and recycle them) the worst item for recycling, as they are a mix of cardboard lined with foil, a metal base, a metal tear-off lid and plastic cap. The Recycling Association says the tub is ‘the number one recycling villain due to bad design’. Improvements are ongoing, but the plastic lids are still left on picnics, where they can fall into rivers and oceans. Kellogg’s say they have to use this, ‘or else the food will be wasted’. A great way to avoid Pringles waste is to choose a better bag of crisps!
Anyone who saw the Divine in potatoes, could never turn them into Pringles. Mother Superior, Green Sisters (a book about eco-nuns who grow free food for local people)
Do Crisps Have Too Much Salt?
NHS says too much salt can cause heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. We get most salt from everyday foods like bread, so the more natural food you eat, the less salt you have. Adults should have no more than 6g (1 teaspoon) a day, and for children far less (see site for details). Crisps (and all foods) must say the salt content by law (red, amber or green). But if you eat a giant ‘green’ bag of crisps, this can turn into a ‘red bag’, as you are obviously eating more salt.
Nottingham Children’s Hospital (which works with children with kidney and liver disease) says to give children smaller multi-pack crisp bags a few times a week. Their chosen brand is Kettle Unsalted). Action on Salt says brands should not be allowed to promote ‘healthy crisps’ as some have more concentration of salt than seawater.
Always feed crisps supervised, as they are a choking hazard.
Can You Recycle Crisp Packets?
Terracycle Crisp Packet Recycling Scheme has outlets within 4 miles of most people. You can set one up, then earn money for your community for every 10 kilos of empty bags you collect. It’s better than nothing, but the scheme has been criticised, as it sort of encourages people to buy endless bags of crisps, to get very little in return. If you use this scheme, don’t fold the bags into triangles, and they can’t accept popcorn bags, crisp tubes, pretzel bags or meat snack bags. The bags are then sent off and made into items like watering cans.
Biodegradable Crisp Packets?
This sounds good, but there are now real concerns. More research has to be done, but biodegradable packaging made with eucalyptus pulp is from flammable trees that have caused wildfires in Portugal (which killed 63 people and countless wildlife). In Australia, reports have come out that koalas have been harmed or killed from machines, used to harvest the trees.
Local forestry engineer João Branco says that strips of bark are carried by the wind to spread flames, and mass tree-planting sucks up ground water, wiping out competing native species and destroying habitats for native wildlife. ‘Spotting’ can ignite fires 18 miles away from the main fire, according to Dr Jane Cawson (an expert in vegetation flammability from University of Melbourne). So although this biodegradable material sounds great in practice, you may wish to stick with using packs you can recycle, tins or making your own crisps, for now.
Crisps Made from Veggie Waste
Spare Snacks is a brand of crisps that uses fruits and veggies that would otherwise go to landfill, due to being rejected by supermarkets. The founder grew up with a mother with food that would last so long ‘it had its own pension plan’, so wanted to do something to stop the vast waste in the food industry, from ‘rejected produce’ that often ends up on landfill.
These are sold in nice veggie flavours like beetroot, apple and pear, plus they do small ‘scrapple’ packs. Spare Snacks are made in recycle-ready packaging that you can recycle at any local project (most people live within 4 miles of an outlet, usually a local shop).
Air-Dried Crisps from Kent
Nim’s offers air-dried fruit and vegetable crisps, that uses the whole fruit, so one pack counts as one of your five-a-day. 70% of ingredients are local (only the citrus fruits and pineapples are not), and they recycle nearly everything. Flavours include apple, pear, dried pepper & courgette, beetroot & parsnip. What’s great about this company is that it uses waste products to make its own edible teas (loose tea to make in a teapot).
Crisps in Tins from Hertfordshire
Two Farmers makes ‘sharing tins of crisps’ (the two vegan-friendly flavours are Lightly Salted and Sea Salt Vinegar). They also sell wholesale to pubs and restaurants. Just imagine if all pubs in England switched over to selling these crisps, it would change the whole industry, everyone would start selling crisps in tins, which are easily recycled. Their biodegradable bags are made with eucalyptus pulp (see above re concerns).