By Amy MacDonnell on 29 October 2018
Two of Grimsby’s biggest companies have called on household recycling across the UK to be simplified to make the war on plastics easier to win.
Young’s Seafood and supplier Ultimate Packaging joined forces to raise the issue, citing how local authorities’ varied ways of dealing with waste make high-impact national campaigns to change consumer behaviour difficult to deliver.
While North East Lincolnshire relies on a level of sorting by householders, with three separate boxes, others have a single wheelie bin for mixed recycling, with every alternative inbetween deployed across the country.
Speaking at a special Bondholders event at Ultimate’s expanding Europarc facility, business leaders heard how food packaging is one of the most critical points in the plastic revolution. It poses a particular dilemma due to its fast-moving consumable status, and the two-fold ability to help a product stand-out in a supermarket and then to ensure it is able to stay there with shelf-life extending qualities and protection.
Einar Olgeirsson, packaging development manager for Young’s Seafood, told how the emotive footage from Blue Planet had brought the issue to the fore.
“Fourteen minutes of television got Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons to say they would reduce plastics by 10 per cent.
“We have committed to reduce plastic in packaging by 10 per cent by 2020, and to be at 95 per cent widely recyclable by 2025. We are serious about this.”
Working in packaging since joining the £500-million turnover town giant in 2004, he said: “The chilled category has a heavy reliance on plastic trays, and for a very good reason. It is there to give the product its shelf life, reduce food waste and for visibility.
The problem is not that we are addicted to plastic, but the convenience it gives us. That’s what we are attracted to.”
And the same applies to waste as it does cooking and handling. “We need public engagement and it is not going to happen unless it is simple.” Mr Olgeirsson said, covering consumer disposal. “We need a simple system for everyone.”
Of the input from Young’s, he told how the Ross House team has helped take 55 tonnes of plastic out of Asda, employing methods such as reducing the thickness and size of some of the packaging, taking the supermarket giant from 17 per cent widely recycled in January to 75 per cent widely recycled by the end of this year. “I still think there are opportunities for further growth, but we have met Asda’s target of 10 per cent, and stretched it to 11.5 per cent,” he said. As a leading brand exposed to innovation streams, he told how mushroom derived packaging and plastics being refined back into raw material feed stock for re-use were interesting developments.
Ultimate Group is a £50 million turnover packaging firm, specialising in flexographic and world-leading in digital solutions. More than 70 per cent of its work is for fresh produce, with supermarkets accounting for a similar percentage of its work.
Managing director Jeremy Hodson said: “We want to raise the level of green resources in our packaging, we want to reduce the amount of waste within the supply chain and reduce the amount of materials used in flexible packaging - all of which our new product development road map is trying to achieve.
“We have a commitment to reduce waste, we are a member of Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan, with the target of 100 per cent of plastic packaging being recyclable or compostable by 2025.
“It was a case of hands up, we needed to wake up call, and the industry has really stepped up to try and achieve these targets.”
Chris Tonge, executive director at Ultimate, told how compostable materials had been available for a decade. “The problem with all of them is they are considerably more expensive than normal films, and if we do use them, we have got to make sure they don’t end up in with recyclables,” he said. “The biggest issue is getting recycling right. Every council in the UK does that differently, so we need to join that up.”
Mr Hodson told how the company was briefing North East Lincolnshire's two MPs on the food packaging plastics issues, "so they have all the information to take back to central Government so they can make the right decisions," and told how not being an extruder of the film it prints on meant it was "free to buy what we need and what the market needs," when it comes to recyclable materials.