Pondering plastic – perplexing problem or potential plan?

Sponsored: Laura Taylor, buyer at allmanhall, discusses the development of more sustainable packaging solutions

As an increased awareness on health emerged as a predominant trend for 2021, we cannot ignore the importance of both our own wellbeing but also the health of our planet. Part 2 of the National Food Strategy released earlier this year centred on these intertwined, underlying themes.

With the global pandemic spring-boarding grab and go services, including in schools, there has been an increased demand for food packaging and disposables. However, there is an expectation from consumers for manufacturers and retailers to lead the way in reducing single-use plastic within the food industry.

Already we have seen a ban on single-use plastic stirrers and straws, and it is likely that plastic cutlery and plates will follow. The development of more sustainable packaging solutions alongside strategies to reduce single-use plastics is a high priority.

As a certified carbon-negative manufacturer, one of allmanhall’s sandwich provider partners, Real Wrap Company use sandwich and wrap boxes that are all plastic free. Replacing the usual plastic film with cellulose sourced from trees, this means that the whole box is easily recycled and can be put in the mixed or card recycling points.

With paper and cardboard being the most recycled products across the UK and Europe, many brands are developing paper-based solutions. One such example is an alternative to the well-known Pringles can. Made from a combination of foil, cardboard, metal and plastic, the original packaging can be difficult to recycle through regular household recycling.

It seems there is much more to come in food packaging innovation, and this is likely to be sooner rather than later

However, it has been reported that, whilst the paper cans are easier to recycle than their current can, it can compromise on shelf-life with a reduced span of 15 months. With different properties to plastic, the manufacture of paper packaging means that machines usually meant for plastic must be adapted to suit a more fragile material.

We may question, therefore whether paper is as good at keeping products fresh and how strong it is, especially when exposed to moisture.

Reducing single-use plastic whilst ensuring that food packaging still meets the standards required comes with numerous challenges. Concerns have been raised that the pressure to increase the recycled content in packaging to more than 30% could result in alternative materials being used that reduce food shelf life and consequently cause higher food wastage.

As a food contact material, packaging is highly regulated, and any new developments need approval – a process that takes time. It seems there is much more to come in food packaging innovation, and this is likely to be sooner rather than later. Time is not on our side.

Following the Budget in 2017, the UK Government called for an exploration into using the tax system as a means of challenging single-use plastic waste. This new tax is set to be introduced in April 2022 and allmanhall will soon be providing more details about this.

Follow us on Twitter @allmanhall or visit our blog page https://allmanhall.co.uk/blog for updates

1 Comment
  • Eddie Sheridan

    Difficult to find any material has a better carbon footprint than plastic. All are recyclable. Paper has an awful carbon footprint needs to be made from sustainable resource and the manufacturing process uses lots of water. That is as well as poor properties! All very misguided.

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