Biodegradable fibre packaging could catalyse shift away from black plastic, says GlobalData

With packaging producers under pressure to find a replacement for plastic, the latest contender could be Durapulp fibre, which is used to create biodegradable packaging to replace the black plastic trays often used in ready meals and raw beef products, says GlobalData, the data and analytics company.

The producer, Finnish packaging manufacturer Huhtamaki, has been trialling Durapulp fibre in the UK ready meal category since May 2018 up until the end of June 2018. The company hopes that the trial will eventually lead to the adoption of biodegradable packaging in ready meals.

Ryan Choi, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: "The main issue with black plastic trays is the color. Black is used as it makes pack contents stand out better and appear more attractive on shelves. However, optical sorting equipment in recycling facilities has difficulty detecting black packs and most of the time fails to do so."

According to a report conducted by Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), most black plastic ends up in landfills rather than being recycled. Several UK-based companies have identified this as an issue and are looking to phase out black packaging despite the high costs involved. Waitrose is looking to phase it out completely by 2019, with Quorn Foods looking to do the same by 2025.

Choi continues: "The main problems facing manufacturers of new packaging materials are the cost of manufacturing and how well the pack can last. Plastic was always the perfect solution, being cheap with a long life cycle – albeit too long.

"Although these packaging trials will highlight the usefulness of the packaging material in practice, ultimately the potential adopters of new packaging materials will always asses how well the new material delivers in these two key areas. If the new pack is not cost effective to produce at the same time as offering a long enough life cycle, it will not be adopted, even if it is more environmentally friendly."

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