The packaging will initially replace many of the supermarket chain’s Italian ready meal trays, saving 158 tonnes of black plastic. The cream-coloured containers, which are fibre-based and similar in texture to cardboard, are now certified home compostable for the first time.
Waitrose & Partners has worked with its suppliers Huhtamaki and Saladworks to use technology to ensure the trays can be heated in the oven and microwave, and are cool to touch after cooking. The fibre-based packaging is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, creates a 50% saving in Co2 emissions, and can also be recycled.
The retailer said: ‘This packaging innovation means millions of ready meals will be taken out of hard-to-recycle black plastic, as we continue our lead in removing the material on all our own-brand products by the end of 2019.’
This is the first phase of Waitrose & Partners’ plan to replace black plastic on all its ready meals, and follows its move to remove black plastic on its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and veg earlier this year.
The majority of black plastic packaging is coloured using carbon black pigments, which do not enable the pack to be easily sorted by the systems widely used in plastic recycling. As a result, black plastic packaging commonly ends up as residue and disposed of in landfill.
Waitrose & Partners manager of packaging & reprographics Karen Graley said: “Pioneering the first home compostable ready meal packaging – that ensures customers can continue to cook their food quickly, safely and now more sustainably – is a major breakthrough in packaging innovation. This step, combined with moving millions of ready meals out of black plastic, is a significant milestone in how we package food and eliminate hard to recycle material for good.”
Other examples of Waitrose packaging innovation include the retailer’s Duchy organic tomato packaging, which is partly made from the tomato plant mixed with recycled paper.
The new Italian ready meal packaging will be available in Waitrose & Partners shops from tomorrow (Wednesday May 29).