Removing Plastic Packaging from Bananas
France has placed a ban on plastic packaging for the majority of fruit and veg, which commences in the New Year. Whilst dramatic actions like this are necessary to turn the tide on environmental damage, there are concerns that such actions may increase food waste and contamination.
In the UK, smaller-scale actions are being undertaken. As an example, Morrisons has pledged to remove plastic packaging from bananas. What difference can that make to the environment?
Surprisingly, Morrison estimates that this one action will prevent the use of 45miilion single-use plastic bags a year. When you think of this, what difference could we all make with one change to our packaging?
Good News from the UK Plastic Pact
The removal of banana packaging is one of many initiatives being adopted by the UK Plastic Pact members. The latest Pact report highlights progress and it is good news. A commitment to cutting plastic waste has led members of the Pact to successfully remove 46% of plastic items deemed problematic or unnecessary since 2018. These include plastic straws, disposable plastic cutlery and PVC.
Member’s actions have also reduced the overall volume of plastic packaging on supermarket shelves by 10%. These steps are necessary for reducing the 4.8-12.7million tonnes of plastic that, according to Science Journal, enters our oceans every year.
Switch to Recyclable Packaging
Many products are being sold in smaller containers or different packaging materials. As an example, Kellogg’s is currently trialling a paper liner inside cereal boxes. The bags keep the contents fresh for 12 months and can be recycled more easily than plastic liners. Other changes include the switch from polystyrene pizza discs to cardboard across most leading brands.
Increase the Use of Recycled Plastic
For some products, there is not yet a viable alternative to plastic packaging, but that doesn’t mean changes can’t be made. Another shift that has been noticeable this year is an increase in the use of recycled plastics. In 2018, 9% of product packaging contained recycled plastic, which has doubled to 18% in 2021.
Using recycled plastic uses 75% less energy than creating packaging from scratch. A redesign of Persil bottles by Unilever now uses 50% recycled plastic, saving 1000 tonnes of virgin materials a year.
It may take a behavioural change, but another change is the introduction of refillable packaging and refill stations. Many health-food and eco shops have offered dried goods without packaging for years. This approach is gradually being adopted by supermarkets and other retailers. It will be interesting to see how willing consumers are to take containers to the shops over the coming year. Could refill take off?
Optimise Packaging Design
Many products are now being sold in smaller packs. In some cases, the volume of contents remains unchanged, but the boxes, pouches and bottles have been optimised. For other products including fruit cordials and cleaning products, concentrated products are being favoured. Either way, smaller packaging requires fewer resources. It also reduces transportation costs and carbon footprint and needs less storage space: good news for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
Boost Recycling Rates
In 2018, the plastic recycling rate was 44%. Improvements to recycling facilities, household collections and consumer awareness have increased this to 52%. The capacity for repurposing plastic in the UK is growing, with innovative new products being designed from recycled plastic. We gave examples of some great initiatives in a recent recycling plastic blog.
Clear labelling on all packaging helps consumers to know what can be recycled and how. Alongside this, awareness of schemes, such as Tesco’s soft plastic collection points and the TetraPak Crisp Recycling scheme will continue this trend.
Sustainable Packaging Design
Your company doesn’t need to be a member of the Plastic Pact to make sustainable packaging a priority. Understanding the full lifecycle of your packaging materials should be an essential component in the packaging design brief. Speaking to suppliers and requesting samples for trials can help answer questions and inform decisions.
Aylesbury Box Company has enabled many brands to reduce or remove plastic from retail packaging and shipping boxes. As FSC® certified UK cardboard packaging manufacturers, we offer advice on sustainable solutions.
If your 2022 goals include a switch to sustainable boxes or fillers, get in touch with our team on 01296 436888 or email@example.com. Aylesbury Box Company, UK based and sustainability-focused.