Flight plas­tics NZ first

Element - - Contents - By Alexan­dra Wim­ley

Su­per­mar­ket gi­ant Food­stuffs won an award in 2012 for its plas­tic-wrapped car­rots on black poly­styrene meat trays sold at New World su­per­mar­kets, but it wasn’t an award of which the com­pany was proud.

The Wanaka Waste­busters Un­packit award for worst pack­ag­ing was one of the cat­a­lysts to in­spire Food­stuff’s sus­tain­abil­ity man­ager Mike Sam­mons to de­velop an al­ter­na­tive to the com­pany’s tra­di­tional pack­ag­ing.

“It started to res­onate af­ter a while,” Sam­mons said. “When you get a car­rot Glad-Wrapped to a foam tray, it’s a re­ally bad look.”

Be­yond fruits and veg­eta­bles, Sam­mons said, the butch­ery was the “holy grail” of waste. The ma­jor­ity of meat is pack­aged on poly­styrene black trays. The un­re­cy­clable pack­ag­ing poses a se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenge as hun­dreds of mil­lions end up in land­fill each year.

The big­gest ob­sta­cle to the pack­ag­ing was to make it sortable for kerb­side re­cy­cling. First, Sam­mons vis­ited lo­cal coun­cils and the Visy sort­ing plant to find out what they wanted in their bins, a ques­tion rarely asked by busi­ness.

What they dis­cov­ered was that they needed to cre­ate a tray that op­ti­cal sort­ing ma­chines could recog­nise as re­cy­clable PET, a test black PET trays failed, as the ma­chine can­not dis­tin­guish them from poly­styrene.

The team at Food­stuffs spent two years de­vel­op­ing prod­ucts and work­ing to cre­ate pack­ag­ing that meets the com­pany’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

“The meat tray ticks all the right boxes in terms of sus­tain­abil­ity and per­for­mance and fur­ther­more it’s made right here,” said Sam­mons.

The fi­nal prod­uct is clear and made of 50% re­cy­cled plas­tic. It’s ac­cepted by all kerb­side re­cy­cling schemes in New Zealand. Con­sumers just have to rinse the tray un­der the tap and throw it in the re­cy­cling bin.

Dim­ples in the tray col­lect fluid from meats and pre­vent leak­ing even when tilted or in­verted.

The com­pany es­ti­mates that the new trays can save the equiv­a­lent of 14 Olympic size swimming pools full of poly­styrene from clog­ging land­fills each year.

Un­less com­pa­nies de­mand re­cy­cled con­tent in their prod­ucts, there will be a lack of re­cy­cling,” said Sam­mons. “Ul­ti­mately we’d love to have closed loop re­cy­cling.”

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