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Pinchbeck firm develops plastic-free, recyclable sandwich packaging

Convenience food manufacturer Greencore is trialling a world-first plastic-free, recyclable sandwich packaging.

The Pinchbeck company will start ‘test and learn’ trials of the all-fibre sandwich skillet at Co-op and Sainsbury’s stores across the UK from September.

The packaging, developed in conjunction with ProAmpac and believed to be the first of its type in the world, marks the culmination of 18 months of research and development by the Wardentree Lane firm.

A new innovation from Pinchbeck firm Greencore could lead to the UK’s 600million sets of sandwich packaging bought each year being fully recyclable.
A new innovation from Pinchbeck firm Greencore could lead to the UK’s 600million sets of sandwich packaging bought each year being fully recyclable.

It will have a plastic-free window and be made entirely from paper-based material.

Crucially, due to the precise level of moisture resistance the skillet provides, it will provide the same shelf life as traditional packaging.

Data shows that consumers currently find it challenging to separate the plastic film from the packaging, meaning that recycling rates are nowhere near as high as they could be.

The new skillet’s all-paper construction should make the process much easier for consumers.

Subject to successful trials, roll-out of the new packaging will begin later in the year. In time, Greencore expects to make these new packaging techniques available to the wider UK market.

Development of the fully-recyclable skillet sees Greencore deliver on one of the key commitments outlined in its 2020 sustainability report.

The report also contains a range of pledges across the areas of sourcing, manufacturing, and community engagement. Further commitments include:

• All surplus product will be donated to local communities by 2022;

• A deforestation-free supply chain by 2025;

• All raw materials will be sustainably sourced by 2030;

• Product development will be equally split between animal protein versus plant-rich alternatives by 2030.

It is estimated that some 600 million pre-packed sandwiches are consumed in the UK every year, or just over 1,100 every minute.

Should the fully-recyclable skillet ultimately be adopted as industry best practice, the potential for significant reductions in plastic usage and in improved recycling rates is immense.

Andy Wright, head of sustainability at Greencore, said: “Consumers are increasingly aware not just of the importance of their own health but also of the impact their food has on the health of the planet.

“Developing a fully recyclable sandwich skillet is one of the key ways we can reduce waste and help our customers do their bit to protect the environment.

“This is not a problem we can solve alone, though. The complexities of the challenges we face require collective action, inside and outside our industry, and Greencore is pleased to have such supportive customers who share our enthusiasm for making great food for all, that’s accessible, healthy and sustainable.”

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