Quorn eliminates “unrecyclable” black plastic packaging in innovative UK move

Quorn eliminates “unrecyclable” black plastic packaging in innovative UK move

12 Jun 2018 --- Meat-free food producer, Quorn, plans to remove 297 tons of non-recyclable black plastic from its supply chain. The move comes as part of the brand’s ambitions to achieve 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. Quorn claims that their elimination of black plastics is a UK first from a major food brand and one that will help reinforce their identity as a leader in sustainable nutrition.

With the April 2017 WRAP announcement that black plastic was not being recycled by local authorities but instead being sent to landfill, the company’s packaging strategy group met to formulate a plan to remove black plastic from its supply chain as quickly as possible.

As a result, Quorn announced its ongoing plans to eliminate unrecyclable black plastic from its products. Since April 2018, black plastic has been phased out of the majority of Quorn packaging, including some of its bestselling products such as chilled Quorn Mince and Pieces.

In June 2018, in-store packaging of the vast majority of the chilled range will move to white and opaque recyclable plastics. This change will replace 297 tons of black plastic with clear and opaque, recyclable alternatives, supporting the WRAP initiative against unsustainable packaging.

A spokesperson for Quorn tells FoodIngredientsFirst: "We will now use white and opaque recyclable plastics. For some products we have simply removed the colour so the trays have changed from black polypropylene (PP) to colourless, pigment-free natural color, for example Quorn chilled Mince & Pieces. For other items such as CPET ready meals trays, we have changed the color from black to white and where it was appropriate, we have moved out of CPET completely and we now pack the products into clear/natural colorless PP trays."

Quorn Foods CEO, Kevin Brennan, says: “As a founding signatory of WRAP’s UK Plastic Pact, we are very excited to announce this positive change towards increased sustainability of our products. Moving so quickly to remove black plastic is a significant challenge, but one that, as a sustainable company, we view as being of the utmost importance. We view this as the right thing to do, despite the six-figure cost.”

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Quorn's new packaging

“Our customers will be able to continue enjoying Quorn as part of a balanced and healthy diet, knowing that we are committed to reducing all forms of food waste in our supply chain and to promoting and advancing sustainability without passing the cost onto consumers,” he adds.

Quorn uses a meat alternative, high-quality protein source, serving to diversify the modern diet. It is reportedly the fastest growing food brand in the UK, with a focus on the well-being of the environment and creating more sustainable solutions for food security.

Quorn claims that its products are highly sustainable: Quorn Mince produces 90 percent less GHG emissions, 90 percent less land usage and 90 percent less water usage than the beef mince equivalent.

The brand, which is exported globally to 20 different markets, is aiming to phase out the remainder of black plastics in its Deli range (which accounts for approximately 10 percent of all chilled products) before the end of 2018. It is currently in late-stage discussions and testing with suppliers to ensure this process takes place efficiently.

The market for recycled black plastic
WRAP announced in April 2017 that black plastic was not being recycled by local authorities, but instead being sent to landfill. That is not to say that back plastics are unrecyclable, but rather that the necessary recycling streams are not currently in place in the UK to accommodate the material type.

It is a similar story in Canada, where black plastics also typically end up in landfills. However, ReVital Polymers, one of Canada’s largest plastics recycling companies, is implementing a sustainable business model that collects black plastics in recycling programs before re-manufacturing them to create new products, such as new automobile parts and household goods like containers and shelving. Revital describes black plastic as an important resource and feedstock for its business.

“No one I know thinks that it is right to use a plastic product or package once and then send it to the landfill,” says Keith Bechard, ReVital’s Chief Commercial Officer. “In Ontario alone, about 1,405 tons of black plastics are generated annually. That would fill more than 70 transport trucks parked end-to-end stretching for 1.7 kilometers. That is a significant amount of valuable material and that’s why we invested in the technology to recover black plastics.”

ReVital is Canada’s first recycling plant that combines a Container Recovery Facility and a Plastics Recovery Facility under one roof. The process of transforming incoming mixed plastic bales into recycled plastic pellets takes less than 25 minutes to complete.

Bechard says recent Toronto media reports claiming that black plastic trays and containers are unrecyclable have caused great confusion for the public, not just in Ontario but across Canada.

“The Toronto media reports were specific to that community’s recycling program and their recycling service provider,” he says. “The city and their service provider’s limitations are not reflective of the rest of the recycling industry in Ontario and Canada.”

Municipalities across the province of Ontario and beyond, including Ottawa, Kingston, Durham and Windsor, have been shipping mixed plastics to ReVital’s 188,000-square-foot plastics recycling operation since it opened in February 2017.

Bechard believes that the market for black recycled plastics is strong. “In fact, we turn most of these high-value materials into customized and highly engineered resins that are tailored to specific customer end-use applications. This customized approach ensures ReVital improves recovery rates for end-of-life products and packaging, extends material value and utility, and allows our automotive and consumer household product customers to manufacture new products that incorporate recycled content,” he concludes.

By Joshua Poole

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