Monday, 11 June 2018
A recent survey by insights agency Delineate revealed that plastic waste was as big a concern amongst British adults as Brexit. Although in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, plastic has helped to reduce food waste and will continue to remain an important part of the food supply chain. However, there are opportunities for meat and dairy to move with shifting public opinion and improve their green credentials, making visible changes to packaging that give consumers confidence in their purchasing decisions.
According to a report published by WRAP in 2011, 120,000 tonnes of high density polyethylene (HDPE) were required to produce approximately 3 billion plastic milk bottles per year in the UK. By 2014 it was reported that around 30% of this was recycled material rHDPE which has a slightly green tint because of pigments from bottle labels and lids.
Mixing a substantial amount of rHDPE with virgin HDPE makes a green tinted milk bottle, which retailers say is unacceptable to consumers. But is this still strictly true?
The Co-Op recently announced it was switching all of its own-brand water bottles to 50% recycled material. The new bottles will be darker and cloudier than normal water bottles but the Co-Op has described this as a ‘badge of honour’, tapping into the wider public consciousness about plastics.
Liquid milk has historically struggled with differentiation in the category - could a green-tinged bottle provide a point of interest for environmentally concerned consumers? After all, Wonky Veg has been successfully launched by a number of retailers, despite conventional wisdom on customers’ demands.
It’s important to remember the usefulness of plastic in our food system. It is lightweight, prolongs shelf life and helps to keep our food hygienic; eliminating all plastic is unrealistic and could have unintended consequences. However, there are options for further optimising packaging and improving recycling rates. Many major food and drink businesses have already signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP, recognising their part to play in tackling plastic pollution. This makes sense ecologically but visible and positive changes to packaging could also help to reassure customers in their purchasing decisions.