How to recycle crisp packets / bags and support charity

Filed in Recycle by on January 27, 2010 55 Comments
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How to recycle crisp packets and support charity

How to recycle crisp packets and support charity

Please note: This campaign has now finished. If you want to find out about recycling crisp packets, please contact the Philippine Community Fund direct…

How excited am I to be sharing this news with you?

The question on every zero waster’s lips is about recycling crisp packets. Those pesky metallised packs that end up in landfill.

Even Mrs A has a crisps habit, and she in great company with Little miss Green who gets attacks of the crisp cravings on a regular basis.

Well now friends, I bring glad tidings, because not only can you recycle your crisp bags in the UK, but they will be put to great use too.

You see, this isn’t just a faceless corporation sorting through your bags and making them into something weird and wonderful. No, crisp bags can literally make the difference to many people’s lives, thanks to the Philippine Community Fund.

Your crisp bags can be sent to Southampton where they will be shipped to the Philippines (in a ship that is already going there anyway) and the crisp bags will be woven into wonderful purses and hand bags. I’ve seen the products and they really are special. It takes around 30 crisp bags to make a purse and four times that amount to make a shoulder bag.

Now here’s the really fantastic part. Sending your crisp packets for recycling means that the children of the Mothers working in the factory can go to school.
Prior to the Philippine Community Fund, these children were literally scavenging off the landfill sites, desperate to make ends meet. They remained uneducated, lived in poverty and the cycle continued down the generations.

Now you and your crisp eating habits can change lives for the better AND you can keep stuff out of our landfills.

Does it get any better?

Well, yes it does actually, because we’ve also found a way to recycle toothpaste tubes, coffee pouches, confectionery wrappers and even dog and cat food pouches – but more on that another day.

On Thursday, Ange from the Philippine Community Fund will be sharing her guest post to tell you more about the fantastic work they are doing to reduce poverty, change lives and reduce landfill waste. And in February, we are proud to announce we will be launching a crisp bag recycling container in Gloucester Tesco (the one on the old cattle market), so local people will be able to recycle their crisp bags there!

If you’re not local, then post your crisp bags (you can send the outers of multiple packs too) to Ange. Call her on 01489 790219 for details and be sure you tune in on Thursday when Ange will be telling you all about the fabulous work the Philippine Community are doing.

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (55)

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  1. this is brilllllllllliant, and I have the good fortune to live in Gloucester. Would have happily posted to as packets are light as a feather (shame the crisps inside are not!)

  2. This is genius. Stuff like this reminds me of what a brilliant race we are.

    A few years ago, my Mum told me off when she saw me throwing a crisp packet into the recycling bin. Up until then, I didn’t realise they weren’t recyclable. And, since then, I’ve always wondered what could be done with them, as I reluctantly put them in the rubbish bin.

    I just subscribed to this blog today after seeing the family on BBC Breakfast this morning and their ONE rubbish collection a year (excellent!). I shall be reading with interest from now on!

    Thanks for this excellent story, and I shall be saving up my crisp packets ready to send to you!

    Best,

    Scotty

  3. Oh my word….after weaning myself off the delicious cheese flavoured bags of fresh air…you’re not giving me permission to indulge again are you Mrs G? πŸ™‚

    Shhh, while I snack on a pack in the corner… I won’t be telling the kids x

  4. Dawn says:

    Okay, I will be making contact, and considering I live in Southampton there really is no excuse. Thankyou Mrs Green.

  5. Poppy says:

    Fantastic news Mrs G. I go through Gloucester regularly and usually pop into Tesco while I’m there, so this would no problem at all. It also gives Mr P one less issue to throw back at me when I complain about something non-eco that he’s done – like yesterday when he came home with chips in a polystyrene box!

  6. Sandie says:

    Another wonderful idea for waste that can’t be recycled in the UK!

    Thank you for taking the time to run this website and share these super, yet simple, ideas for recycling our everyday waste.

    I’m still sending seeds to India and saving my loyalty cards for guitar plectrums.

    You really seem to be making a massive difference. How many people now subscribe to MY ZERO WASTE?

  7. Thats great news, as these are still a good chunk of my landfill waste each week.

    Will defo be making contact.

  8. Teresa says:

    Thank you so much for this. I would have had a revolt on my hands at home if I’d stopped buying crisps, although I eat hardly any myself, so I’m really pleased that I can now take another item off the guilty list. It’s also an extra bonus that the result helps people in unfortunate circumstances. I look forward to hearing more soon.

  9. LJayne says:

    Brilliant brilliant brilliant! This is what I love about this site. As well as doing all this for yourselves in your own house you are always on the lookout for ways in which we can all do more, more easily. And your recent publicity will mean that people who can give us the opportunities should hopefully start contacting you more rather than you having to do all the digging out.

    Crisp packets are one of my guilty items because I do give them to the kids from time to time and feel guilty about depriving them of such treats. Now I don’t have to anymor πŸ™‚

  10. Kim says:

    Brilliant news πŸ™‚ for a family like ours that eat crisps regularly and are slowly adjusting over to a more eco friendly way of living. I will make contact soon too.

  11. Jane says:

    We hardly ever eat crisps which means that they remain the treat that they used to be when as kids we were allowed a Coke/Pepsi and a packet of crisps when sitting outside a pub with our parents (and in those days you could regulate how salty they were as they had those little blue paper twists of salt in the packet).

    We started eating baked pitta bread crisps when they were marketed some time ago and continued creating them for ourselves after they were taken off the market. They are really good with dips and have much less salt and fat! Has anyone tried making crisps in a microwave? I’ve seen a recipe somewhere. My favourite are the parsnip, beetroot and sweet potato ones.

    It is good to see that there is something that can be done with these wrappers other than just bin them and a good cause makes it even better. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  12. Just Gai says:

    While not wishing to rain on your parade Mrs G, aren’t we rather missing the point here? In the words of the mantra, shouldn’t we be reducing before we proceed to reuse and recycle? I’m relieved to hear that empty crisp packets can provide a living for Phillipine women transforming them into delightful bags. However this doesn’t alter the basic structure of the material, which remains unbiodegradeble. We may prolong its life for a few more months but it will nonetheless ultimately end up on a landfill site. Wouldn’t it be better to cut down (or cut out) our consumption of crisps until they are packaged in fully biodegradeable materials.

    I speak here from personal experience. Ever since our council started recycling plastic the temptation has been to let up on the zero waste shopping routines. I have to keep reminding mysef that I should be tring to avoid plastic altogether.

  13. Nick says:

    To send crisp packets to Philipphines people is just to send the rubbish problem to someone else. They cannot recycle ALL the crisp packets but just an insignificant amount of them.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @nic @ nipitinthebud: Nic, I hope you will come and see us at the launch in the Glos Tescos – I’ll let you know when it is πŸ™‚

    @Scotty Stevens: Hi Scotty, welcome to the site and thanks for your lovely comment. So glad the crisp packet recycling will be helpful to you.

    @Almost Mrs Average: I thought you might like this one, Mrs A πŸ˜‰ Now do I remember that you said Suffolk had somewhere to collect them?

    @Dawn: Brilliant Dawn – great that it’s local to you.

    @Poppy: Oh no, chips in polystyrene! I nearly had some of them the other day too, but managed to spot it in time. I hope you’ll come to the Tesco launch too?

    @Sandie: Hi Sandie, what a lovely comment; thank you! I’m not sure how many subscribers we have; less than you might think though; I think most people bookmark us and visit us that way.

    @maisie dalziel: Great Maisie; I think this is a great answer to families with kids who are crisp munchers!

    @Teresa: Good news Teresa; I don’t eat them either, but they are one of LMGs pleasures and I wasn’t about to say no to them. This discovery arrived just in time for our zero waste year!

    @LJayne: You’re welcome! Glad you can still indulge and drop the guilt while benefiting these beautiful children in the Philippines.

    @Kim: Hi Kim, good to hear – baby steps is the way to go. I think people forget that it’s taken us 18 months to get where we are today.

    @Jane: I don’t have a microwave so can’t comment on microwave crisps, it sounds like that might be a solution though. However I draw the line at making my own in a deep fat fryer and oven baked just aren’t the same/

    @Just Gai: Hi Just Gai, good to see you and thanks for your comment. While I agree wholeheartedly that REDUCE comes way before recycle I think the reality is that many households buy crisps. I feel the Philippine Community provides an alternative to landfill waste, which is our only option at the moment. Of course sustainable packaging would be a better option for the environment at large, but I’ve been in touch with crisp manufacturers and it seems to be a long way off.

    @Nick: Thanks for your comment Nick and welcome to the site. Yes, it could be argued that we are simply sending our rubbish abroad, but the Philippine Community are ACTIVELY SEEKING our crisp bags in order to improve their lives. The wording on their last newsletter was that they were “desperate” for our stuff. I don’t know what the percentage of crisp bags they can recycle it, but I will find out and let you know.

  15. Poppy says:

    @Nick: @Mrs Green:

    I’ve not seen anything official about this yet, but if you can email me the date and time and I will see what I can do πŸ™‚

    I know it’s not the whole answer Nick, but we have to try to deal with reality and these people actually wanting to use our waste, is a much better option than landfill or incineration.

    I want to go back through our rubbish now, to see what I can rescue, but I need to wait until Mr P is out of the house or he’ll be sending for the men in white coats πŸ˜‰

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: I’ll let you know when things are definite – but it’s probably going to be 19th and 20th of Feb in Tescos Gloucester.

  17. michael says:

    here’s a website that shows how to make your own purse from crisp bags…http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/smart/makes/steps/make_series14_crisp.shtml#

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @michael: Hi Michael, thanks for that. There’s an idea for a rainy afternoon!

  19. Jannet says:

    As an aspiring rubbish-reducer I was interested about the Philipine charity – has anyone found further info yet such as details of items wanted and address to send? I know theres a phone number but I didn’t ring as I though they might be inundated

  20. Layla says:

    Interesting!

    I saw they make all sorts of stuff on Phillipines, bags out of tetrapaks too etc. Would love to see what they make out of these and how, too!
    I agree with Just Gai this just prolongs the life of the packets, ideally we still reduce & minimize & just don’t buy such stuff. I don’t buy crisps anymore, Sis loves ’em so now I’ll have her leave ’em out in the open to make stuff like Michael suggested! (not sure if any ships go from Slovenia to Phillipines?)
    I wonder if I can reuse any iffy unlabelled plastics/cellophane this way too?

    I suppose they must be clean/washed for collection? (Usually the bags are a bit greasy and such.)

    Haven’t tried making chips in the oven yet, probably another thing for this year, hopefully!

  21. @Jannet:

    Hi Janet, when i rang they couldn’t have been more helpful.

    If I remember right it was 9am – 4pm Mon – Fri,

    I don’t want to put the address on here as it it the personal house address.

  22. Jannet says:

    @maisie dalziel: Thanks Maisie,
    I will give them a ring then

  23. Kirsty says:

    I’m giving up crisps for Lent, as they are one of my unhealthy food choices. However, I am going to make a small collection box for my work place, after reading about your awareness attempts at Tesco in Gloucester.

    Do you know that some of the Walkers crisp range now have recycling packinging? French Fries, and Quavers packets now have the ‘5’ symbol in the triangle (Polypropylene).

  24. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: I don’t have a microwave either but realise that a lot of people do and most recently have realised how important it is to have some idea of how to use one as you get older and need to be able to cook more easily and safely from the point of view of naked flames, gas and hot stove tops.

  25. Mrs Green says:

    @Kirsty: Hi Kirsty; no I never knew that about Walkers – thank you for the information. Do they tell you HOW to recycle the material though? It is polypropylene, but it’s metalised; making it difficult to recycle. I’ll get on to them and see what they say πŸ™‚

    @Jane: Hi Jane; good point about naked flames – microwaves use less energy too and I think more and more people will use them πŸ™‚

  26. Kirsty says:

    @Mrs Green: Mrs Green, there isn’t anything shown on the packets as to how to recycle I’m afraid. It would certainly be useful to know how to dispose of them correctly. Regards Kirsty

  27. Alison Hardy says:

    HI I work for the university of bath, & we recently hold a policy for zero waste in the residence for all students overseas /english & we are trying to improve our zero waste in all areas so please could you send me any info that can help you in your cause, maybe you could arrange a display of the products you can produce from waste— EG chrisp packets, if you email me with the info you require i will be happy to help ,
    Regards
    Alison Hardy AAOC

  28. Mrs Green says:

    @Kirsty: Hi Kirsty, well I contacted Walkers and their response was out of a can and very unhelpful. I usually find this and find it needs to be a second email that actually gets you a helpful answer written by a human rather than a machine πŸ˜‰ Will let you know if I find anything interesting / helpful

    @Alison Hardy: Hello Alison; can you contact me with a contact us form (http://mzw.wpengine.com/contact-us/) please, tell me more about what you want and I’ll see what I can do to help:

  29. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: Shame that Walkers are so unresponsive. You’ve given them good publicity with the PCF crisp packet recycling initiative.

  30. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: I’m not phased, Jane – it seems to be standard policy from most companies. First the simple letter that says nothing much sent from a computer and then a more knowledgeable reply if you push for further information

  31. John says:

    I”ve read about this wonderful scheme. And have now tentatively approached our local C o Op. I also want to talk to Tesco and Asda. How would I/they, get the bins to put the empty crisp packets in? I saw on the video clip, of the local news report, that Tesco had a very professional looking bin, for people to put their empty packets in. Please help.
    Take care john

  32. Mrs Green says:

    @John: Hi John, great that you want to help out too. I’ll email you today and give you some details. πŸ™‚ Thank you for your contact us form as well; I read it the other day and enjoyed looking at your site.

  33. Kirsty Smith says:

    @Jane: Hi Mrs Green, is there any further update from Walkers regarding the 5 recycling logo on some of their crisp packets?

    I am part of my local environment group, and I mentioned the pcf and your crisp recycling scheme to the chair a few days ago. As a result, she would like me to attend a meeting with one of our local primary schools, which happens to be an ecoschool, to see if they would get on board with this. Has anything been firmed up about transportation of packets from outside Gloucestershire, to the PCF, especially if the supermarkets and other organisations get on board? I also note that John has questioned the actual collection point boxes, is there an update on this?

    Although after reading back on some of the comments on this link, Nick makes a relevant point about the quantity of packets being used. If this scheme has lots of interest (which I’m sure it will), and the pcf are innundated with vast quantities of packets, surely they can’t all be used?

    Surely, the emphasis should be to lobby the crisp manufacturers to make packets than can be made from more recyclable materials, if not 100% recyclable materials, rather than move non recyclable materials around the world and make it the problem of another country.

    I am behind you 110%, and think what you and your family are achieving is brilliant.

  34. steven says:

    @Mrs Green:

    1. Not really proper recycling, only so many people will want these products and then how long will it be before they two are discarded. A proper solution is needed to either set in place regulation as to the materials that the packets can be made of or technology needs to be put in place to deal with the current material so that it can be recycled back to raw material on a larger scale and therefor back into a usefull product.

    2. Also against Non-oecd green list import regulations into the Philippines. Contry to popular belief they also have evironmental protection laws and importation of this type of waste is in fact illegal!

  35. Mrs Green says:

    @steven: Welcome to the site, Steven and thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    What do you call ‘proper’ recycling – would that be using that material in the same way again? Unfortunately I think there are many ‘new’ words branding around that have little or confusing meaning such as upcycling, repurposing etc. I’m really not sure how helpful these words are.

    To my mind, recycling is taking materials and making them into new products and keeping them out of the waste stream, which is exactly what the crisp packet recycling charity are doing.

    It would seem that many people DO want these products, which is why the charity is successful. It has just opened a school for 1000 children with the money raised through the charity and I’ve seen the products and know they to be far better than some. I have seen the gimmicky recycled products by some companies that are flimsy and only as good as a 99p toy from China (and hence I do not endorse them on the site), but the products made from crisp packets and other materials by the PCF are superb and durable.

    I would say 95% of the people we have shown these to have loved them (and they are not all recyclers or interested in recycling!). You talk about the need to make them into useful products – well these are. I use some of them myself at home because they work …

    I agree that avoiding this ‘waste’ in the first place is the key – but until crisp packet manufacturers change their packaging or a successful crisp packet recycling facility is launched in the UK, we are being part of the solution instead of part of the problem in the small way that we can. By sending them to the Philippines, we help turn ‘waste’ into a resource and help people to improve their lives.

    I’m sure the Philippine Community are well aware of the legalities of what they are doing. They have been registered since 1996. πŸ™‚

  36. Ben says:

    @Kirsty: Hi Kirsty, the triangle ‘recycling logo’ is not actually a recycling logo. In Germany it is used to indicate that the manufacturer contributed financially to a recycling scheme of some type (often not for the item/material it’s printed on), while as far as I’m aware in the rest of the world it has no clear meaning. There are no rules on its use, and I don’t believe it belongs to anyone. It can certainly be found on many non-recyclable items, as well as recyclable ones, and one of the commonly used codes (no. 7) actually means unidentified plastic. Unfortunately, with the lack of definition and totally inconsistent use, I don’t think you can conclude anything meaningful from it being on a packet.

  37. Kirsty Smith says:

    @Ben: Hi Ben, I think there maybe a misunderstanding from my discription of the 5 triangular logo. I was refering to 5 inside the triangle, which denotes ‘Polypropylene’ material. Some of Walkers crisp packets now show this logo, but as the inside has a silver looking foil film, it is confusing as to how to recycle it. I concur with you that its use and meaning is inconclusive.

    I also understand the use of ‘Der Grune Punkt’ logo in Germany and other European countries, and you are right to state that it can be found on many non recyclable items in the UK. Thanks for clarifying this for all readers.

  38. Steven says:

    @Mrs Green:

    By ‘proper’ I mean something that can be scaled to tackle the problem in an effective manor. As an example in the UK and Europe there is now in place recycling that can take several thousand tons of PET baled bottles and turn these back into food grade PET pellet that in turn goes back to making bottles (saving the raw material that would have otherwise been used). Take into account the other PET bottles that get turned into PET flake and then from this raw material into clothes we wear or other products on a mass scale (again saving the raw material that would have been used otherwise).

    I do not know the exact amounts of crisp packets entering entering landfill on the world basis, however I would guess that it is far more than the demand for products that can be sewn from them. This is why I said a more effect method should be used, or pressure should be brought on the manufacturers or supermarkets to provide an alternative more recyclable material.

    Regarding the Philippine’s, It does not matter how long they been set up or their status the law is the same for any company. There are large amounts of different types of plastic waste that you can’t send to the philippines that include this type of waste. In other countries it is possible to also import waste that is banned until customs check a container or another high profile case brings things to the attention then all containers of that type are turned away, as this is banned for the Philippines it is probably only a matter of time before this occurs.

    This is one of the other reasons why China recycles most because they still allow plastic waste in providing it has been inspected in the dispatch country and the company importing it has an AQSIQ licence.

  39. Poppy says:

    Hi Mrs G

    Where can we leave the ring-pulls? We have a nice little collection of them at the moment and Joshua was thinking about asking his school friends, but I don’t want to go down that line not knowing where to send them next.

  40. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Hey Poppy, I don’t have a collection point at the moment. Would it be too costly for you to post them to the Philippine Community Fund until I think about setting this up? It’s something we’re considering but I’m worried people will simply dump the whole can in there πŸ™

  41. Mr L says:

    this sounds like reuse to me and not ture recycling.

  42. Mrs Green says:

    @Mr L: Hi Mr L; well to be honest I think *all* recycling is a form of reuse and from my perspective it doesn’t matter what the correct term is, technically, the point is this is making a difference both to UK landfill and the lives of some of the poorest Filipino families.

  43. Mark Staleton says:

    as a youth worker in Gloucester, and aware of the cost of landfill I have been taking my packets to St Oswolds.
    My youth project several years ago sudenly got hit by a Β£600 comercial premisis waste management bill, Money better spent on young people. We now opperate a re-cycleing project within the centre and produce relativly little waste over the year.
    We also have a Mountain Bike Re-cycling project for young people excluded from school, they are sent to us and they spend a day building bikes for donation or sale while learning the life skills they need to re-enter education.
    We would love to have a crisp packet box in our centre for the young people to bring their crisp packets to us as they dont all go to St Oswolds.
    We should also like to support you rolling this out to other youth centres (those that are left) as young people eat hundreds of packets of crisps within and around our youth centres.

    You can email direct and perhaps we can get something going.

    Mark.

  44. Mrs Green says:

    @Mark Staleton: Hi mark, welcome to the site. I can help you with collections so will email you now. Thanks for your comment!

  45. Pete Murray says:

    I emailed Walkers for comment on their packaging and they said that the outer pack for multipacks is potentially recyclable (made from orientated polypropylene) but it’s not so common to find places that accept it. The actual packets themselves are not really recyclable since they are made from multiple types of material therefore would need to be separated somehow. I also know that Walkers are owned by Pepsico and Pepsico also own FritoLay in the US who make 100% compostable bags for their Sunchip range. These are made from PLA, a biodegradable plastic. Walkers did not comment on the reasoning why Walkers bags are not made from PLA or if they will be 100% compostable considering its the same parent company.

  46. Mrs Green says:

    @Pete Murray: Hello Pete; the response you had from Walkers was exactly the reason we started working with the Philippine Community Fund as this provides a solution to both reducing landfill waste AND supports charity. Obviously it would be great if we could find a solution in the UK to recycling crisp packets, but working with the PCF provides a win-win for now.
    SunChips have now stopped using compostable PLA for all but one of their crisps which we covered in this article: http://mzw.wpengine.com/2010/10/mrs-green-gets-rejected/

  47. Ru says:

    Wouldn’t the wasted energy (fuel cost, wear and tear on aeroplanes and ships, pollution put into the atmosphere e.t.c) used in transporting this waste all the way to the Philipines completely cancel out all the good intentions when eventually the packets would end up in landfill anyway whilst at the same time massivly increasing my carbon footprint?

  48. Mrs Green says:

    @Ru: hello Ru, I don’t feel that good intentions are outweighed by environmental impact. The shipping containers would be going back empty so by filling them we are making use of the space.

  49. steve says:

    whilst that is partly true about container ships going back empty. If you add an extra container of packets to the ship it does use slightly more fuel in transporting the extra weight on the ship. Clearly an extra 10 or 20 tons of packets must use more fuel to transport. Then you have to take into account that this then needs to be loaded and transported by truck to the port and then at the other end again by truck.

    Support and investment for some realistic methods to recycle these materials back into a raw material are what is needed rather than these schemes that do little more than tick some boxes and add a little PR for some companies.

  50. Mrs Green says:

    @steve: Hello Steve, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think this sort of thing could be argued for and against for a long time. I think it would be ideal if we could deal with these materials responsibly and sustainably in this country, but while there is no alternative I am happy to support the PCF. It’s a positive compromise that helps make a difference to some families in the Philippines.

  51. Alicia says:

    I’ve only just discovered this way of recycling crisp packets (sorry for being slow!) but now the charity’s website says they won’t be collecting any more from April 2011. Does anyone know of anywhere else we can send the packets?
    Thanks!

  52. Mrs Green says:

    @Alicia: Hello Alicia, You can still send them via the PCF but you’ll have to fund the shipping yourself. It might be worth contacting them to find out more about how to do this.

  53. Tracey says:

    I’ve just come across this site for recycling a handful of things:
    http://www.terracycle.co.uk/

    The US site ( http://www.terracycle.net/ ) looks as though it might take more waste, including those pesky crisp-packets we struggle with… But I’m not sure how that would work from the UK… Or if we could get them to expand their business in the UK?

  54. Mrs Green says:

    @Tracey: Hi Tracey; I did an interview with Terracycle when they just came to the UK, but haven’t been in touch since. I’ll get onto them and see what plans they have πŸ˜‰

  55. Carrie Cort says:

    Fantastic recycling and scheme, well done ladies! Is there any collection from the central West Sussex area? If not could I start one for you? Keep up the good work!

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