Quorn moves to eliminate black plastics from packaging supply chain

Vegetarian food brand Quorn Foods is switching almost 300 tonnes of hard-to-recycle black plastic packaging to clear, recyclable alternatives, at a cost to the company, to reduce the amount of plastic waste it produces.

Quorn’s packaging strategy group has been working since April 2017 to replace black packaging plastics from its products. According to WRAP, the majority of black plastics – often used for food trays – are coloured using carbon black pigments which can’t be detected by optical sorting systems used in recycling centres. As a result, black plastic often ends up in landfill or recycled into lower value materials.

The first replacements were issued in April 2018, with items such as Quorn Mince and Pieces switching to clear or opaque plastic trays and packaging that can be sorted at national recycling infrastructure. This month, the vast majority of Quorn’s chilled range will move to these alternatives, replacing 297 tonnes of black plastic in the process.

Quorn Foods chief executive, Kevin Brennan, said: “Moving so quickly to remove black plastic is a significant challenge, but one that, as a sustainable company, we view as being of the utmost importance. We view this as the right thing to do, despite the six-figure cost.

“Our customers will be able to continue enjoying Quorn as part of a balanced and healthy diet, knowing that we are committed to reducing all forms of food waste in our supply chain and to promoting and advancing sustainability without passing the cost onto consumers”.

Plastic Pact

Quorn, a founding signatory of WRAP’s UK Plastic Pact, will aim to eventually eliminate black plastic from its supply chain at an unspecified date. Black plastics in Quorn’s Deli range, which accounts for 10% of all chilled products, will be phased out by the end of 2018.

The company is also a member of WRAP’s Courtauld Agreement 2025, which aims to achieve a 20% reduction in food and drink waste across the UK and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas intensity of food and drink consumed in the UK. The brand’s meat alternatives produce 90% less emissions and use 90% less water and land compared to beef mince equivalents.

Quorn joins the likes of the Co-op and Waitrose in publicly announcing plans to phase-out or reduce black plastic use.

Matt Mace

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