Ready for change

Monday 6th July 2015
Plastic packaging waste clogging up our landfill sites could be slashed by half if people simply started cooking more

Ready for change

Plastic packaging waste clogging up our landfill sites could be slashed by half if people simply started cooking more, says a national waste and recycling company.
Business Waste (www.businesswaste.co.uk) asked 1,450 householders how often they cooked an evening meal from scratch using fresh ingredients and found a staggering 
34 per cent never do, while 43 per cent only whip up a meal from scratch once a week. Nearly a fifth of those surveyed admitted to eating ready-meals every single day.
The company point out that not only are ready-meals often an unhealthy option for us, but also for the planet. 'Lazy eating is becoming a national epidemic in this country,' says Business Waste spokesperson Mark Hall. 'Not only are we filling ourselves up with excess sugar and salt from ready-meals, we're also creating mountains of food packing waste that goes straight into the bin. We've fallen out of the habit of cooking for ourselves. Now there's an emerging generation that doesn't have those skills at all. Dumping the ready-meal really will save lives, and help save the planet.'
Unsurprisingly, around 1.3 billion ready-meals are consumed in the UK every year, which equates to 30,000 tonnes of black trays. Although recyclable, the trays have proven to be a huge challenge for the UK recycling industry, as the black colour of the tray is not detectable with the optical sorting equipment used at plastic sorting facilities, so most of these trays end up going to landfill.
However, M&S recently led a successful six-month trial involving a number of key players from the packaging, recycling and retail world, including Sainsbury's and WRAP, to try to resolve this issue by using an alternative black colourant that is capable of being detected and separated for recycling.
'We want our customers to feel confident that every time they put their ready-meal tray in the recycling bin, it gets recycled,' said Kevin Vyse, M&S primary foods packaging technologist and innovation lead. 'Under Plan A 2020, we are working with WRAP to ensure we use the most environmentally efficient forms of food packaging possible, and this presents the potential for us to reduce the use of virgin material and add 20 per cent recycled content to the new trays without having any impact on their functionality or appearance. If we can find a workable solution, we could be looking at over a billion more pieces of food packaging being recycled every year.'

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