For packaging that can’t be reused, we need to make sure it can be recycled or composted – a goal that’s much more complex than it sounds.
Take our coffee packaging for example – historically, plastic has played a key role in our packs. This is because we’ve found it to be the most effective and versatile material for keeping our coffee fresh. This is not only important to give our customers a high-quality brew but also to allow for a longer supermarket shelf-life, so that as little coffee as possible ends up unsold as food waste.
Although we’ve looked out for new packaging over the years, we’ve struggled to find a recyclable material that does the same job as effectively. Our journey so far has focused on reducing the weight of our packaging, and the film is the thinnest we can specify while ensuring the quality of product. This also helped us to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of our coffee packaging.
Now, to meet our new ambitions, we’ve undergone a global technology search – looking at all the possible alternatives – from paper-based materials to recyclable plastic laminates. For paper-based solutions, we’re working with suppliers to enhance the barrier properties of packaging to prevent staling. When it comes to laminates, we’re looking at ‘mono-polymer’ solutions which can be recycled.
While we are busy working on how to make this packaging recyclable, the current waste infrastructure also has some way to go to support these changes. Right now there are very few local councils who collect a small selections of flexible plastics from households and only 6% of flexible plastic is currently recycled.
We’re proud to be part of the Flexible Packaging Consortium, run by Suez, which is working with Defra to include flexible plastics in household recycling collections from 2023.