By 2050 it’s estimated that there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s ocean, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. New UK legislation means that from April 2020 there will be a ban on the distribution and sale of single use plastic drinks straws, stirrers and stemmed cotton buds. Government figures showed that in England alone consumers were estimated to use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds. Once enforced this ban will primarily impact on the hospitality industry, however, it’s safe to say that food and drinks manufacturers, as well as retailers, will be pressed to come up with cost-effective innovations which will meet consumer demand for the reduction of single use plastic. For many years the food and drinks industry viewed plastic as a revolutionary material evolving from its reliance on glass, tin and cardboard to plastic which was introduced in the early quarter of the 20th Century. Plastic packaging serves the important purpose of protecting food from
damage, improving the shelf life of a product and plays a role in the visual appeal of a product (Which, 2019). Regardless of the functionality of single-use plastic packaging, this material is no longer considered sustainable for modern society. Last year Mintel reported that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of grocery shoppers felt that grocery retailers use too much plastic in their packaging. Given the rise of this eco-conscious consumer, demands from government and the impact to the environment, it is necessary that new forms of packaging are
sought which go beyond producers simply reducing the amount of plastic they use. Early this year local brand Mash Direct announced its plans to ditch single use black plastic trays in favour of green recyclable trays for all its prepared vegetables. In September 2019 UK retailer Sainsbury’s also announced its commitment to reduce plastic packaging by 50 per cent by 2025. This ambitious target will primarily focus on the area of biggest waste – plastic milk bottles, packaging for fruit and vegetables and drinks. The company is currently considering options like refillable bottles, returnable milk bottles or offering reusable jugs with milk in a lightweight plastic pouch. Other packaging innovations include one by French company ‘Ooho!’. It developed a new material called Notpla, a combination of seaweed and plants, which is edible and biodegrades in 4-6 weeks. Products include sachets, plastic cups and even cocktail capsules. American based firm Full Cycle Bioplastics, Elk Packaging and Associated Labels and Packaging have been able to use agricultural by-products and food waste to make compostable packaging.
This high-performance multi-film material is currently used in granola bars, crisps packets and laundry detergent and according to its website, after use can be composted with any uneaten food inside it. Packaging innovations to prevent food waste are also being developed. For example, WRAP is collaborating with retailers to develop temperature-sensitive strips on milk bottles which change colour if the fridge temperature rises too high, alerting the user to alter the temperature to prevent the milk from spoiling (Mintel, 2019 – The Ethical Consumer Report). Furthermore, Mintel reported that dairy based company Arla is trialling a new gelatine gel on its use-by label which goes bumpy when the product reaches the end of its shelf life. While the majority of these examples are currently being trialled it is important to note that simply reducing the amount of plastic packaging used across the supply chain is not enough. Instead producers need support to improve the recyclability of the plastic packaging they currently use, understand the replacement options available to them and be assured of the capability for making a change.
|Period||7 Nov 2019|