Packaging News

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Lidl introduces twin policies to reduce plastic waste

Lidl introduce twin initiatives to tackle plastic waste
  • Vacuum-packed beef mince to reduce plastic use by two-thirds
  • Own-brand water bottles to incorporate Prevented Ocean Plastic™

Lidl GB has announced two initiatives that will reduce plastic waste across its 960 UK stores.

The discount retailer has revealed plans to introduce new vacuum-packed, recyclable packaging across its beef mince range that will reduce plastic use by almost two thirds (63%).

The UK's sixth-largest supermarket will also be incorporating Prevented Ocean Plastic™ into its water bottles - plastic that would have otherwise ended up in the ocean - becoming the first UK supermarket to make such a change.

These latest initiatives form part of Lidl's commitment to tackle plastic waste and reduce its own-label plastic packaging by 40% by 2025.

Vacuum-packed beef mince to cut plastic by two-thirds

When Lidl introduces new vacuum-packed, recyclable packaging across its beef mince range in early 2024, the switch will reduce the amount of plastic used by 63%.

The new policy will collectively save over 250 tonnes of plastic a year, whilst the valuable space-saving provided by the smaller packs will result in the equivalent of up to 350 delivery trucks being taken off the road per year.

Another benefit of storing food in vacuum bags is the extension of its shelf-life. Lidl estimate that the new packs will double the shelf-life of its 100% British beef, which will half the amount of waste in store.

The new packaging range will provide benefits for Lidl shoppers, including:

  • Beef kept fresh for longer - shelf-life doubled from eight to approx 16 days
  • Easy-peel film, so that customers don’t have to touch raw meat
  • Smaller footprint pack, taking up less storage space in the fridge or freezer

Shyam Unarket, Lidl GB's Head of Responsible Sourcing & Ethical Trade, said: "Plastic reduction is a huge priority for us, but we also recognise the important role that plastic plays in our daily lives.

That's why it's hugely important that our plastic reduction strategy is centred around a progressive circular programme. By ensuring that any new packaging is recyclable, we'll be able to help prevent plastic pollution in our environment.

Ocean waste destined for Lidl water bottles

From this summer, Lidl's own-brand mineral water range will include ocean-bound plastic in its bottles.

The retailer's San Celestino Italian sparkling mineral water bottles will contain a minimum of 30% Prevented Ocean Plastic™ - plastic which would have otherwise ended up in the ocean.

Lidl is the first UK supermarket to make this change, which it says will prevent almost almost 100 tonnes of plastic from entering the ocean each year - the equivalent of nearly four million plastic bottles.

The German-owned retailer has been leading the way in this area since 2020, when it became the first UK supermarket to introduce food packaging using Prevented Ocean Plastic™.

It has since been rolled out across a range of Lidl's own-brand fish, poultry, sausage and fresh fruit products, saving the equivalent of more than 15 million plastic water bottles from entering the ocean in those three years.

Lidl also recently changed all semi-skimmed milk caps from coloured to clear to improve their recyclability - a switch soon to be transitioned across its entire milk range.

Shyam Unarket said: "As pioneers of integrating ocean bound plastic into our packaging in 2020, we have been consistently building and improving on our efforts since, and are proud to now extend Prevented Ocean Plastic™ into water bottles. Through this latest product development, we hope to inspire wider efforts across the industry."

Supplied and developed in conjunction with Bantam Materials, Prevented Ocean Plastic™ packaging is made from discarded water bottles in South East Asia, that have been found within 30 miles of a coastline or major waterway feeding into the ocean.

Lidl says that all plastic waste is then sorted and processed before being used in packaging, with a fully traceable process and robust documented chain of accountability.

Images courtesy of Lidl GB.

M&S recycling scheme targets beauty product packaging

Beauty Takeback Scheme aims to make it easier to recycle beauty product 'empties'

M&S's Beauty Takeback Scheme makes it easier to recycle empties

Marks & Spencer has launched a Beauty Takeback Scheme that will allow customers to drop off empty beauty product packaging at 40 stores across the UK.

The high street retailer has teamed up with beauty recycling experts HANDLE to launch the scheme, which is predicted to collect over two tonnes of empty beauty packaging within its first year.

Packaging is one of the biggest sustainability challenges facing the beauty industry, with poor recycling rates due to packaging materials and components that can not be processed through mainstream recycling infrastructure.

The new scheme will enable this hard-to-recycle product packaging - which commonly ends up in landfill - to be recycled and turned into new packaging and products.

M&S customers can return any form of plastic or aluminium beauty packaging into dedicated boxes located within the store’s beauty section.

This includes packaging items that often fall through the recycling net, such as bottles, tubes, caps, pumps and tubs, and covers packaging from any retailer, not just M&S.

The HANDLE programme is starting out as a take-back recycling scheme, but aims to build toward a circular system for M&S beauty, where the materials collected are used to create new products and packaging.

Carmel McQuaid, Head of Environmental, Social and Governance at M&S, said: "Plastic is one of the biggest challenges facing the beauty industry and, whilst there is still lots more to do, we hope this scheme encourages customers to recycle their beauty empties to give them a second life and reduce the amount of packaging that goes to landfill."

Tom Murgatroyd, Co-Founder of Handle Recycling, said: "We are thrilled to announce our partnership with M&S, our mission is to reduce the environmental impact of Beauty Packaging and this partnership helps to elevate awareness and action toward this mission to the next level."

"We aim to support M&S with projects that promote reuse and circularity, as both are challenging yet critical aspirations for us all to attain for the sake our planet and future generations."

Image courtesy of Marks & Spencer.

Asda and Aldi to introduce clear milk bottle tops to all stores

Two more leading supermarkets to remove colour pigment from lids in a bid to improve recycling rates

Asda and Aldi to introduce clear bottle tops across their milk range

Aldi and Asda are the latest supermarkets to announce they are switching to clear bottle caps on their milk ranges.

The UK's third- and fourth-largest supermarkets are replacing coloured caps in a bid to improve the recyclability of bottles.

The switch means that a combined extra 468 tonnes of High-Density Polythene (rHDPE) per year is now able to be recycled to create new milk bottles.

Asda, in partnership with Arla, the UK’s largest dairy cooperative, is introducing clear tops across its own-label milk range - equating to 207 million plastic milk caps each year. The change will also affect Yeo Valley fresh milk.

Aldi is switching to colourless milk caps across all of its 990 UK stores, following a successful trial last year.

Customers in both stores will be able to distinguish between the different varieties of milk by the coloured labelling on all milk bottles.

Fiona Dobson, Asda's lead packaging strategy and innovation manager, said: "We are committed to finding ways to reduce our environmental impact.

"The introduction of clear caps on our milk bottles is part of our wider commitment to drive 100% recyclability packaging and increase recycled content levels across all of our products by 2025."

Luke Emery, Plastics and Packaging Director at Aldi, said: "We are constantly reviewing ways to become a more sustainable supermarket and cut down on single-use plastic. That means working closely with our suppliers to find solutions that will make a real difference.

"Improving the recyclability of packaging on an everyday product like milk has been well received by our customers, who are increasingly aware of products being environmentally friendly."

Milk bottle tops have always proved more difficult to recycle than plastic bottles themselves - or indeed soft plastics such as clear polythene bags - due to the colour pigment contained in the caps that can not be easily recycled back into food-grade packaging.

As with many recent green packaging initiatives, it was the UK's discount supermarkets that lead the way in tackling the issue, by introducing clear bottle tops to their products.

Along with Aldi's trial, last year also saw Lidl introduce clear bottle tops to its own milk range in November, following a successful trial.

Jayne Paramor, strategic technical manager for plastics at the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), welcomes leading UK retailers making small but significant steps towards a circular economy for plastic packaging.

"Clear, colourless plastics have much higher demand as recycled material, so removing pigments will help to produce valuable recycled plastics and build end markets for these reprocessed materials, ensuring that they find a second life as new products, including new milk bottles and lids", said Paramor.

"This small but impactful change is helping to make the UK’s milk bottles – which are already widely recycled into new milk bottles and a fantastic example of the circular economy for plastics in action – even more recyclable. An exemplary step in developing a circular economy for plastics."

What is AI's future in packaging?

A futuristic packaging conveyor belt

AI will impact every aspect of our lives, with the packaging industry no exception to this.

In an ever-changing world, AI will play an integral role in the development of packaging, but what does AI itself think about the future of the industry?

We used AI to write an article on the evolution of packaging and the transformative impact that AI might have on the industry.

Unleashing the potential: AI's belief on the evolution of packaging

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionised numerous industries, and packaging is no exception.

As technology advances at an unprecedented rate, AI is playing a crucial role in reshaping the packaging landscape. With its ability to analyse vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and make intelligent decisions, AI is driving the evolution of packaging to new heights.

Intelligent design

One of the key contributions of AI in packaging is the creation of intelligent designs. Traditionally, packaging design relied on human creativity and intuition. However, AI algorithms can now analyse consumer data, market trends, and even cultural influences to generate highly optimised packaging designs.

By considering factors such as visual appeal, functionality, and sustainability, AI is enabling the development of packaging that resonates with consumers while reducing waste and environmental impact.

Personalisation and customisation

AI's ability to process vast amounts of consumer data empowers companies to personalise and customise their packaging. By analysing customer preferences, purchasing behaviour, and demographic information, AI algorithms can generate tailored packaging solutions.

This personalisation not only enhances customer satisfaction but also strengthens brand loyalty and drives sales. AI-driven customisation can range from simple elements like personalised messages or graphics to complex variations of packaging design for different target markets.

Enhanced sustainability

Sustainability is a pressing concern for the packaging industry, and AI is driving significant progress in this area. AI algorithms can analyse and optimise packaging materials, reducing waste and environmental impact.

By considering factors such as recyclability, durability, and weight reduction, AI helps companies develop sustainable packaging solutions without compromising product protection and consumer experience.

Additionally, AI-powered supply chain optimisation reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with packaging production and distribution.

Quality control and safety

Ensuring product quality and safety is paramount in the packaging industry. AI is transforming quality control processes by automating inspections and detecting defects with unprecedented accuracy.

Machine vision systems equipped with AI algorithms can quickly identify issues such as packaging defects, labelling errors, or contamination. This reduces the risk of faulty products reaching consumers, safeguards brand reputation, and minimises costly recalls.

Supply chain optimisation

AI's impact on packaging extends beyond the design and production stages. It is revolutionising supply chain management by optimising inventory levels, predicting demand, and improving logistics.

AI algorithms can analyse historical data, market trends, and external factors to make accurate demand forecasts, helping companies streamline their packaging operations. This leads to reduced costs, minimised waste, and improved overall efficiency throughout the supply chain.

Will AI revolutionise packaging?

Artificial Intelligence is ushering in a new era of packaging by leveraging its computational power and data-driven insights. From intelligent design and personalisation to sustainability and supply chain optimisation, AI is transforming every aspect of the packaging industry.

As technology continues to advance, we can expect further breakthroughs and innovations in packaging driven by AI, enabling companies to meet evolving consumer expectations while reducing environmental impact.

With AI at its core, the future of packaging looks promising, efficient, and sustainable.

AI-generated image from Open AI's Dall.E 2 system.

Certified compostable plastics biodegrade in real-life conditions - study

Study finds compostable packaging can offer sustainable waste management solution for the packaging industry.

Pre- and post-testing - Compostable packaging mixed with organic waste disintegrate and biodegrade.

Compostable packaging certified with the EN13432 trademark does biodegrade in real-life conditions, a new French research study has found.

The research - carried out by French packaging company Chaire CoPack in partnership with AgroParisTech and the University of Montpellier - was designed to validate the biodegradation of compostable food packaging in industrial composting facilities, as certified by the EN 13432 standard.

Tested over a four month period starting in October 2022, 20 tonnes of household food- and bio-waste was mixed with over 300kg of assorted compostable packaging - certified EN13432 - in real industrial composting conditions, without forced aeration.

A compost test with no compostable packaging added was conducted in parallel as a control.

The preliminary report provides conclusive evidence that certified compostable packaging is a viable sustainable solution to waste management in the food packaging industry.

Test results showed that the addition of certified compostable packaging:

  • Positively affected the composting yield
  • Had no negative consequences on the agronomic quality of the final compost
  • Did not generate ecotoxicity to plants, earthworms and daphnia
  • Met the the decay rate requirements of the compostability standards

Regarding the fate of residual compostable microfragments in the soil, the study found that:

  • Immediate further biodegradation of these fragments was demonstrated
  • The rate of biodegradation increased as the fragments spent more time in the compost

"We are thrilled to see the findings of this study," said Paolo La Scola, public affairs manager at TotalEnergies Corbion.

"The results send a strong signal to governments across Europe to grant certified compostable plastics access to biowaste collection and composting infrastructure. It’s necessary to reduce plastic waste mismanagement."

"These findings are one of many reports that proves that compostable packaging is an essential tool for increasing the collection of food waste and enabling its efficient conversion into compost.

"It is essential that all stakeholders along the value chain cooperate for the recognition of the benefits of compostable packaging in separate collection and recycling of food waste."

Compostable packaging has become increasingly popular in recent years, as consumers look for quality packaging choices offering a reduced environmental impact.

Leading UK manufacturer Polybags is at the forefront of the market, offering consumers a huge range of compostable packaging, including compostable mailing bags, packing bags, display bags, safety bags, waste bags and compostable carrier bags.

All of these products are certified to EN13432 standards. Just keep an eye out for the compostable logo - which denotes a compostable product - in Polybags' online shop.

Image courtesy of TotalEnergies Corbion.

Aldi introduces fully-recyclable handwash pumps

First UK supermarket to offer own-label handwash in 100%-recyclable packaging

Aldi recyclable soap bottles

Aldi has introduced fully-recyclable packaging to its own-brand handwash range in a bid to reduce waste - becoming the first major UK retailer to offer such a product.

The UK’s fourth-largest supermarket says the switch will allow over 200 tonnes of packaging material a year to be more easily recycled.

Whilst plastic handwash bottles have been recyclable for many years, most pump dispensers contain small components - made of metal or glass - that can not be recycled with the rest of the bottle.

By removing these components from their Lacura soap range, Aldi has made the product's entire packaging fully recyclable at home.

This is the latest move by Aldi in their efforts to reduce their environmental impact and develop more sustainable packaging alternatives for its products.

The German-owned retailer recently became the first supermarket to join the Podback recycling scheme for its own-label coffee pods.

They also announced plans to introduce soft plastic recycling points to almost all Aldi stores, soon after replacing their green bottle tops with clear bottle tops to make them more recyclable.

Aldi's plastics and packaging director Luke Emery said: "Reducing waste is incredibly important to us and our customers, and we will not stop looking for ways to improve our packaging to ensure shoppers know they are making more environmentally friendly choices when buying their everyday products."

Image courtesy of Aldi.

Waitrose launches UK-based soft plastic recycling

Customers can recycle their soft plastics at 295 Waitrose stores

Soft plastic recycling is now available at Waitrose stores

Waitrose has announced the launch of soft plastic recycling points at most of its UK stores.

The supermarket - part of the John Lewis partnership - has carried out a successful trial and considerable due diligence to find a UK-based waste management solution.

Customers can now recycle clean and dry soft plastic at 295 Waitrose stores. Recyclable items include:

  • Carrier bags
  • Bread bags
  • Salad, rice and pasta bags
  • Frozen food bags
  • Cereal liners
  • Toilet roll wrapping
  • Cheese, meat and fish wrapping
  • Crisps, chocolate and biscuit wrapping
  • Baby & pet food pouches
  • Bubble wrap
  • Cling film

Caroline Pinnell, Sustainability & Ethics Specialist at Waitrose, said: "We know that recycling is a key priority for many of our customers so we’re delighted to be able to offer flexible plastic recycling across a number of our shops.

"Across both Waitrose and John Lewis, we are continuing to strip away single-use packaging and provide our customers with convenient reuse, refill and recycling solutions.

"We are on track to meet our 2023 Waitrose packaging target, that all of our own-brand packaging will be reusable or made from widely recyclable or home-compostable material by the end of 2023, two years ahead of the industry-wide WRAP UK Plastic Pact."

Film and flexible plastic packaging accounts for around 25% of all consumer packaging, whilst only 8% of all soft plastics were recycled in the UK in 2021 (Source: Edie).

This figure is an increase on the 6% recycling rate from 2019, but it remains very low, mainly due to a lack of kerbside collections and limitations in recycling infrastructure.

Soft plastics collected by Waitrose will be sent to a reprocessing plant in Glasgow where it will be washed, separated and then turned into flakes or pellets that can be made into new products or materials.

Recycled soft plastics can be reprocessed to produce yet more plastic bags, such as bin bags and waste sacks, carrier bags and mailing bags.

They also offer the following range of post-recycling uses:

  • Secondary product packaging (e.g. toilet paper packaging)
  • Shrink wrap for the transportation of goods
  • Bags for DIY, industrial and horticultural products
  • Plastic furniture
  • Guttering
  • Buckets

Image courtesy of John Lewis Partnership.

Pioneering soft plastic recycling site opens its doors

Fife site tackles challenge of hard-to-recycle soft plastics

New recycling centre opens in Fife

A pioneering new recycling facility which will reprocess 'hard-to-recycle' soft plastics has opened its doors in Fife.

The site is the first of its kind to process a mix of plastics - including film - into reusable materials, with the aim of keeping the material in a 'closed loop' and prevent it from being exported overseas.

Co-owned by Morrisons and operated by recycling plant specialists Yes Recycling, the new facility has the capacity to recycle 15,000 tonnes of post-consumer plastic packaging a year, including hard-to-recycle flexible food packaging such as sweet wrappers, crisp packets and salad bags.

It will use patented technology to turn these low grade plastics into plastic flakes, pellets and Ecosheet - a new and environmentally-friendly alternative to plywood, which can be widely used in the construction and agriculture industries.

Omer Kutluoglu, Co-owner of Yes Recycling, said: "The UK is in desperate need of more plastic recycling capacity and, in particular, for the so-called 'hard-to-recycle' plastic waste such as flexible food packaging.

"Our new next-generation recycling plant, which we’ve developed over the last seven years, is designed to tackle exactly these materials. It is a blueprint for the future and will help to kick-start the UK's plastics recycling industry. It will mean we can keep plastic in our own country’s circular economy and out of our seas and oceans."

The UK government has mandated that, by 2027, all local councils across the UK must collect soft and flexible plastic films from households through kerbside recycling collections. On current projections, such a target would require one million tonnes of plastic packaging recycling capacity.

Unlike 'high grade' hard plastics, such as plastic bottles, which have been collected and recycled for years, recycling rates for 'low-grade' soft plastics are generally poor.

Limitations in the technology to recycle this material into commercially viable products means it is typically incinerated, sent to landfill or exported overseas.

Fife Council is currently one of a limited number of UK local councils who collect and segregate hard-to-recycle plastic from its customer collections and send it to a recycling facility.

Cireco Scotland - who operate Fife Council's recycling collection and segregation service - will send all hard-to-recycle soft plastics to the new site, as will Morrisons from their distribution sites and stores.

Jamie Winter, Procurement Director at Morrisons, said: "We’ve done a significant amount of work to reduce our plastic use and now we want to help build a UK infrastructure to recycle the plastic that we may still need to use. By recycling these problematic plastics here in the UK we can give them a new life."

Organisations including Nestlé UK & Ireland and Zero Waste Scotland have also been involved in the development of the new recycling plant, which will create around 60 new jobs for the Fife region, whilst transforming the recycling options for locals.

David Gunn, Zero Waste Scotland’s Recycling Improvement Fund Manager, said: "Zero Waste Scotland has been supporting local authorities through the Recycling Improvement Fund, which helps councils to enhance and invest in their recycling and reuse services.

"It's great to see Fife Council using this support to enable householders to recycle soft plastic by upgrading CIRECO’s material recycling facility. This will significantly enhance the local authority’s ability to deal with ‘hard-to-recycle’ plastics that would otherwise be exported overseas.

"Instead, the separated soft plastics are now supplied to Yes Recycling for processing into Ecosheet, transforming what would have been waste into a highly useful and sustainable product – a fantastic example of a circular economy at work."

Image courtesy of Morrisons.

Sainsbury's to vacuum pack beef mince to reduce plastic waste

New packaging set to save 450 tonnes of plastic each year

Sainsbury's vacuum-packed beef mince

Sainsbury’s has announced plans to vacuum pack its entire own-brand beef mince range in a bid to cut plastic waste.

The new packaging will replace the traditional plastic tray packaging, saving 450 tonnes of plastic per year as a result.

The move is the latest in a series of initiatives from the retail giant in a bid to reach its goal of halving its use of plastic packaging in Sainsbury's own-brand products by 2025.

The new beef mince vacuum packaging falls in line with this pledge, by using a minimum of 55% less plastic than the previous packaging.

Customers of the UK's second-largest supermarket will be able to purchase beef mince in the revamped packaging both in-store and online.

Claire Hughes, director of product and innovation at Sainsbury's, said: "We know our customers expect us to be reducing the use of plastic across our products and we're constantly looking for new ways to innovate to meet our Plan for Better plastic reduction targets.

"We strive to be bold in the changes we are making, which is why we’re pleased to be the first UK retailer to vacuum pack all our beef mince range without impacting the quantity or great quality of product that our customers expect.

"This is the latest in a long line of changes we have pioneered in the space working collaboratively with our suppliers, and customers can expect much more to come."

As well as saving on plastic, vacuum packaging also helps to keep food fresh by removing from the packaging all of the oxygen that typically causes the produce to spoil.

Vacuum-packed food can last for up to five times longer than food packed in more traditional packaging. Furthermore, food packed in vacuum pouches takes up less storage space, allowing for a more efficient use of fridge-freezers.

Vacuum pouches are also an essential element of sous vide cooking - the process of precision cooking using a temperature-controlled water bath.

However, budding chefs should note that sous vide requires specific vacuum pouches designed for cooking, rather than regular vacuum pouches used for food storage.

Image courtesy of Sainsbury's.

Tesco ditches plastic for cardboard laundry detergent packaging

Recyclable cardboard packs to replace plastic laundry pod tubs - saving 252 tonnes of plastic per year

Tesco laundry pod boxes

Tesco is set to replace the plastic tubs used to package its own-brand laundry detergent pods with new recyclable cardboard boxes.

The UK's largest supermarket says the switch will save 252 tonnes of plastic per year, removing over four million pieces of plastic across eight lines.

The new boxes contain more than 90% recycled cardboard, are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and can be put in the normal household recycle bin when empty.

A thin plastic liner will be placed inside the boxes to protect the pods.

The switch comes as part of Tesco's 4Rs packaging strategy, launched by the retailer in August 2019 to help tackle the impact of plastic waste by:

  • Removing plastic where it can
  • Reducing plastic where it can't be removed
  • Looking at ways to Reuse more plastic
  • Recycling what's left

Since the strategy's launch, Tesco says it has removed 1.8bn pieces of plastic and reduced its packaging footprint by more than 10,000 tonnes.

Tesco Group Quality Director Sarah Bradbury said: "Customers are focused on getting great value right now, but we know that they still want to choose products that use less or no plastic in their packaging.

"This is one of many changes we’re making to reduce unnecessary plastic from products right across our stores."

Image courtesy of Tesco.

Korean researchers develop fully biodegradable and non-soggy paper straws

Breakthrough development produces straws that keep their shape whilst also biodegrading in open and ocean environments

Paper straws

Soggy paper straws could soon be a thing of the past, as Korean researchers have developed a fully biodegradable paper straw that keeps its shape when in use.

Paper straws have increased in popularity since the UK government banned single-use plastic straws in 2021, but their replacements have proved to have limitations.

As paper quickly turns soggy when wet, conventional paper straws are coated with either polyethylene or acrylic resin to maintain their structure and integrity.

However, as paper and plastic have a poor bonding compatibility, even a coated straw may have uncoated patches - or patches that can easily tear or break - thus allowing the paper straw to take on water and quickly become soggy.

Conventional paper straws can also prove difficult to recycle and, in some cases - when coated in polyethylene - can still release microplastics into the environment as they break down after use.

Until now, biodegradable coatings have proved problematic - due to problems with decomposition, cost and limitations on mass-production - but now researchers in Korea may have found the solution.

Dr Oh Dongyeop and his team at the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology synthesised a well-known biodegradable plastic - polybutylene succinate (PBS) - by adding to it a small number of cellulose nanocrystals.

These nanocrystals are the same material as the main component of paper, thus allowing the modified bioplastic to firmly attach to the paper surface during the coating process.

This improved coating allowed the straws to keep their shape during use, whilst also biodegrading - even in the ocean - in less than 120 days.

The breakthrough could offer an economical, easy-to-produce and 100 percent biodegradable alternative to traditional plastic straws - which the researchers believe marks a significant step in the right direction.

"This technology is but a small step toward the direction we need to take in this era of plastic," said Dr Dongyeop.

"Turning a plastic straw we often use into a paper straw will not immediately impact our environment, but the difference will be profound over time.

"If we gradually change from using conventional disposable plastic products to various eco-friendly products, our future environment will be much safer than what we now worry about."

Plastic straws were among a number of 'single-use' items banned by the UK Government in July 2021, in a bid to help tackle plastic waste and to protect natural environments and marine wildlife.

Many companies have invested heavily in developing new environmentally-friendly replacements for single-use products, across a range of industries.

Twickenham Stadium in London - home of the England rugby team - last year announced it was to replace all plastic pint glasses sold in the ground with a self-destructing biodegradable plastic pint glass.

The breakthrough product was created by British innovators Polymateria, who have been making waves in the packaging industry with a range of new biodegradable products that are scientifically proven to leave behind no microplastics.

Leading UK manufacturer Polybags has already added a number of new products to their market-leading eco packaging range - all of which feature Polymateria's breakthrough biotransformation technology.

Now, following developments in Korea, can we expect fully biodegradable paper straws to join the list of innovative new products to hit the shelves in the not-too-distant future?

Aldi joins Podback recycling scheme

Retailer becomes first supermarket to join coffee pod-recycling project

Aldi to offer coffee pod recycling through Podback scheme

Aldi is set to become the first supermarket to join the Podback recycling scheme, helping its customers to easily recycle their used coffee pods.

In an industry first, the discount retailer will introduce its own-label pods into the Podback scheme, whilst also promoting the free recycling service to customers in over 980 stores nationwide.

Podback's mission is: "To create a world where every coffee pod is recycled."

Launched in 2021, Podback is the first recycling service of its kind in the UK. It has seen major coffee brands including Nespresso, Nescafe Dolce Gusto and Tassimo come together to make recycling coffee, tea and hot chocolate pods as easy as possible.

Membership has grown to include 16 brands from across the coffee sector and now Aldi is the first supermarket to get on board.

From early 2023, Aldi customers can visit the Podback website to order pod recycling bags. Once they have these, they can either take their used pods to one of 6,500 Collect+ drop off points or, if they live in a participating local authority area, they can also register for kerbside collections.

Plastic and aluminium coffee pods are recyclable, but due to their small size and organic contents, current waste collection and sorting processes are not suitable for processing them, so they usually end up in landfill waste.

Pods recycled through Podback are reprocessed within the UK to recover the plastic, aluminium and coffee, with all materials given a second life.

Aldi is one of the market leaders in own-label coffee pods. By joining Podback, the supermarket's customers could help to recycle up to 268 tonnes of plastic and 20 tonnes of aluminum Aldi coffee pods each year.

Aldi's plastics and packaging director Richard Gorman said: "We’re pleased to be joining Podback on this journey – especially as the first supermarket member.

"It’s important to us that we help customers do the right thing once our hot drink pods have been used, and we look forward to seeing how our partnership with Podback progresses."

Rick Hindley, Executive Director at Podback, said: "We are delighted to welcome Aldi as the first supermarket brand member of Podback. This marks a key milestone for the programme and we are looking forward to working with Aldi to promote our service to their customers.

"We hope other retailers will follow Aldi’s lead and offer their own-brand pod customers the opportunity to recycle through Podback."

Image courtesy of Aldi.

Six ways to cut down on packaging waste this Christmas

Top tips for reducing waste and making greener packaging choices this festive season

Japenese furoshiki - one of our six ways to cut down on packaging waste this Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving… and it won't just be Santa dishing out gifts to all the good girls and boys on 25th December.

Around the world, family members, friends and loved ones will exchange presents, gifts and cards to open on the big day, as a sign of their love and affection.

As the song goes, it's the most wonderful time of the year for many people, but Christmas does have its drawbacks and the amount of packaging waste created is up there among the biggest.

We won't go back over exactly how much packaging is wasted, as there are plenty of articles out there covering that - including our own list of UK Christmas packaging waste facts from last year.

Instead, we'll focus on the positives and suggest a few ways that anyone can make their Christmas a little bit greener, with our six of the best tips for reducing your packaging waste this Christmas.

1. Try a Secret Santa

Perhaps the simplest way to reduce our packaging waste at Christmas would be to stop giving gifts altogether, but where's the fun in that?

However, one idea that many families or groups of friends or colleagues do is set up a Secret Santa - sometimes known as a Christkindl - where everyone involved draws one other person's name out of a hat - or an electronic equivalent - and buys a present just for that person.

Fewer presents overall means less packaging, less wrapping paper and less waste.

But not only does it save on packaging waste, but it also saves everyone a few valuable quid.

2. Reuse old gift bags and wrapping

One of the biggest offenders on the list of packaging waste at Christmas is wrapping paper.

According to WRAP (Waste Resources Action Programme), in 2013 we threw away around 239,000 miles of wrapping paper. That's enough to reach the moon, or to wrap around the equator 10 times!

Whilst it's not the most exciting thing to be doing on Christmas Day, if you're able to salvage any wrapping paper after presents have been open, then save it for next year, as it can be reused.

That's obviously more easily said than done when excitable kids rip open presents, but if the paper is in a fit condition to save, then save it!

One thing that lend themselves perfectly to reuse is gift bags. Many online retailers - and thinking of one big one in particular - offer a gift wrapping service that uses strong and attractive gift bags that can be used a number of times and still look great.

Of course, any wrapping paper that can be recycled should be recycled, rather than binned. Don't buy gift wrap that contains foil or glitter. It might look pretty, but it can't be recycled, so should be avoided at all costs if you want to reduce packaging waste.

3. Try wrapping gifts using a furoshiki

Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloths that are used to wrap and/or transport goods.

They provide not only a beautiful and eye-catching way to wrap presents (see picture at top of article), but they are also a sustainable alternative to using wrapping paper.

Wrapping Christmas gifts in furoshiki has become more popular outside of Japan in recent years, including here in the UK, as we become a more eco-conscious society.

However, there is a big warning with choosing furoshiki as an eco-friendly wrapping option.

As cotton, silk, nylon or other materials used to make furoshiki take greater energy and resources to produce than a piece of wrapping paper, furoshiki only become an eco-friendly alternative if they are used repeatedly.

Exactly how many times is not clear but, to give you an idea, a cotton tote shopping bag has to be used no fewer than 131 times to have a lower environmental impact than a simple plastic carrier bag used just once, or a paper bag used four times.

What's more, furoshiki are not cheap to buy, so you might need to choose carefully about who you are gifting them to!

If you can keep them in the family and use them over and over again - or gift them to someone you know will reuse it themselves - then furoshiki could prove a beautiful and sustainable alternative to wrapping paper.

4. Regift unwanted items

Of course, it's not just the paper that presents are wrapped in that contributes to packaging waste. The packaging for the gifts themselves is usually thrown out straight away.

Worse still is when the present itself is thrown away. Yes, that happens! According to a poll by Finder last year, as many as 6% of unwanted gifts are simply thrown away - that's one in 16 presents!

Now we're sure our fine readers are not amongst the culprits, but just in case anyone thinks of doing so this year: please don't throw out any presents!

If you receive a gift you don't like, why not just re-gift it to someone else you know would like it? Not only will it brighten up their day, but it means the gift - and the packaging containing it - doesn't go to waste.

If the gift is so bad that you can't think of anyone you know who will like it, then give it to your local charity shop. There's an owner out there who will love and cherish that gift - it just needs to find them.

5. Go wrap-free!

We earlier suggested that perhaps the simplest way to reduce packaging waste would be to stop giving Christmas presents altogether.

But of course there's a simpler (and less Grinch-y) way - keep giving presents but don't wrap them in anything!

Let your presents run free, on display to the world in all their glory. After all, the wrapping paper only ever comes off in the end anyway, which is perhaps what Santa is thinking when he stops off in Ireland every year.

As recently as 2016, a poll by Irish news website The Journal found that a majority of Irish households (54%) receive their presents from Santa without any wrapping paper on at all.

Whilst this revelation is difficult for some people to comprehend, if it's good enough to most of the kids in Ireland, who all still have a magical Christmas, then it must be worth a try.

So why not follow Santa's Irish traditions and give your presents the Full Monty treatment this year, thereby helping to cut down packaging waste while you're at it?

6. Go compostable

Not all packaging needs to end up in the recycling bin - or worse still, in landfill - after use (or ideally reuse).

There is an ever-growing range of products made from compostable polymers that will biodegradable into natural elements - e.g. water, carbon dioxide and minerals - when disposed of with your food waste.

At present, these materials are not widely used for wrapping Christmas presents, but there are a range of uses that lend themselves to the Christmas period and could therefore reduce festive waste if more widely used.

Top UK manufacturer Polybags offers a market-leading range of mailing bags, including these strong compostable co-extruded mailing bags that are great for sending Christmas presents in the post. Their eco-mailer range also includes a selection of compostable mailing bags in a variety of colours, including white, green, black, clear and translucent milky-white.

Polybags also offer a great range of compostable vest carrier bags that can be used to both carry home your Christmas dinner ingredients from the supermarket, and then collect up any scraps for disposing of with the food waste after use - but please keep these a minimum as we should also be cutting down on food waste this Christmas!

Everyone at Packaging Knowledge would like to wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Ocado tackling plastic waste with potential 'game-changing' trial

Retailer teams up with Polytag to launch 'world-first' online digital deposit return scheme

Ocado and Polytag team up for 'game-changing' recycling trial

Online supermarket Ocado is launching a 'world-first' trial in a bid to improve the UK's plastic recycling rate.

The online retail giant has teamed up with technology business Polytag to trial a new online Digital Deposit Return Scheme (DDRS), that will allow customers to claim a deposit back on used milk bottles sent for recycling.

During the 12-week trial, over 1.6m bottles of milk - two- and four-litre sizes - will be sold featuring a unique QR code on the label, along with a clear call-to-action and instructions for shoppers.

When the QR codes are scanned from a mobile phone, they will open up a customised Ocado website that includes details of the reward scheme.

The landing page, which will change each week, will also provide Ocado with the means to promote messages on sustainability, such as preventing food waste or ensuring customers use their fridges efficiently.

Polytag CEO Alice Rackley believes that the trial could prove to be a massive breakthrough for the industry.

"This world-first trial has game-changing implications for recycling in this country," said Rackley.

"A successful trial will be a significant step towards the implementation of a DDRS in this country that will provide a much more convenient and environmentally friendly way for households to recover their deposits.

"Not only that, but brands will also be presented with radical new marketing tools and a wealth of data on how consumers are recycling their products."

Laura Fernandez, Senior Packaging and Sustainability Manager at Ocado, said: "As the world's largest online supermarket, we champion the use of innovative technology as we strive to become the UK’s most sustainable grocery retailer.

"Polytag's digital platform offers plenty of environmental and economic benefits for retailers and customers alike – it's easy to use and when used at scale, could have a hugely positive impact on the nation's deposit return scheme.

"We’re looking forward to seeing how our customers respond to the trial and how many would redeem their deposit at home."

Images courtesy of Ocado and Polytag.

WRAP highlights Plastics Pact progress but more work to do

Recycling rates have improved but some 2025 targets unlikely to be met

  • Recycled content in packaging has more than doubled in three years
  • Massive reduction in unnecessary and hard to recycle components in packaging
  • But 70% recycling rate may not be possible without widespread plastic bag collection
  • Supermarket collection points to play an even more vital role in meantime
UK Plastics Pact - Annual report 2021-22

Recycling rates in the UK have improved significantly since 2018 but more urgent action is required to meet environmental targets, a new report from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has revealed.

WRAP's latest annual report on the UK Plastics Pact - signed by a collection of business and government organisations in 2018 to tackle the problem of plastic waste - shows that the group is currently on track to meet only two of its four targets for 2025.

Huge reductions have been made in the use of problem plastics in the last three years, whilst the level of recycled content in packaging has more than doubled over that period.

But two ambitious targets on recycling levels in the UK are unlikely to be met, thanks largely to inadequate plastic bag recycling provision in the UK, along with the closure of export markets.

WRAP's director of collaboration and change Catherine David said: "COP27 made it clear that we are not on track to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Accelerating action by businesses is paramount.

"The businesses signed up to our agreement are leading the way in transforming the plastic packaging sector, demonstrating what is possible, and helping inform government's thinking on needed regulatory levers.

"Today's reports show the mountain we need to climb, and we call on all businesses to join us on this journey and be part of changing our consumption systems in line with a sustainable future."

2025 targets

Led by WRAP, the 2018 UK Plastics Pact saw a collection of businesses, associates and supporters commit to four ambitious targets aimed at reducing plastic waste by 2025.

With the halfway point to these targets now behind us, the Pact's 2021-22 annual report gives an "honest appraisal" of its progress against these targets, examples of good collaboration and innovation, along with an assessment of the challenges it faces.

UK Plastics Pact Targets and Progress

Target 1: Eliminate problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic

Progress: There has been an 84% reduction in problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics between 2018 and 2021. This equates to 620 million fewer items on the shelf (114m vs 734m) with tonnage down to 9,000 tonnes - a reduction of 57%.

Tesco was highlighted in the report for taking a positive lead, having removed more than 1.7 billion pieces of plastic, including plastic wrapping from tin multipacks and branded beer and cider, additional lids from wipes, creams, yoghurts and desserts, as well as plastic forks from prepared salads.

Target 2: 100% of plastics packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable

Progress: 70% of plastic packaging is recyclable today - up from 66% in 2018. For rigid plastics, this figure is now 92%, up from 81% in 2018. There has also been a 90% reduction in hard-to-recycle plastics.

However, despite this progress, WRAP warns that inadequate provision for the recycling of plastic bags means the overall target will not be met by 2025.

Soft-plastic recycling is available at many major supermarkets, with Aldi recently becoming the latest to offer recycling points across its UK stores by the end of this year.

WRAP has welcomed this initiative, but has warned that at-scale recycling of bags and wrapping through kerbside collections will be required for the UK Plastics Pact to meet this ambitious target.

The report also highlights the need for the many trials to move to reusable packaging to be scaled.

Target 3: 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted

Progress: 50% of plastic packaging is recycled - up from 44% in 2018.

However, despite this progress, WRAP warns that members will not meet this target by 2025, as the recycling rate actually fell between 2020 and 2021.

For the first time in nearly 20 years the amount of plastic packaging processed in the UK exceeds the amount exported - largely due to the closure of export markets for recycled packaging.

So despite an increase in the amount of plastic packaging being recycled in the UK, with much more plastic to be recycled, the overall recycling rate declined last year.

WRAP highlights the need for significant investment in UK recycling, particularly as export markets become less reliable.

Target 4: 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

Progress: Recycled content levels have risen from 8.5% in 2018 to 22% in 2021.

The reduction in the use of virgin plastic, combined with this increase in recycled content delivered a saving of 260,000 tonnes of CO2e. This is a 9% reduction in CO2e since 2018, which is equivalent to taking 119,000 cars off the road.

Pact members placed 205,000 tonnes of recycled content in primary packaging ahead of the introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022.

UK manufacturers have also followed suit, with a greater offering of recycled-content products available than just 12 months ago.

Leading the way is Polybags, who this year introduced over 100 new products containing 30% or more recycled content across more than a dozen product ranges.

Among them are a number of their most popular products, including these best-selling mailing bags made from 100% recycled material.

Images courtesy of WRAP. The UK Plastics Pact annual report is available on the WRAP website.

UK seaweed packaging startup wins £1m Earthshot prize

Natural alternative to plastic packaging among green innovations rewarded by Prince of Wales

Notpla wins Earthshot prize

A British company that creates packaging from seaweed has won a £1m prize from the Prince of Wales’s Earthshot fund.

London startup Notpla - short for Not Plastic - was one of five companies awarded $1.2m (£1m) for scaling up innovative ideas that benefit the environment.

Notpla's seaweed-based products include an edible drinks capsule trialled at the 2019 London marathon and takeaway food boxes - over a million of which have been produced this year for delivery platform JustEat.

The Hackney-based company was co-founded by Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez and Pierre Paslier, who met while studying innovation design engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.

"When Rodrigo and I started Notpla eight years ago in our student kitchen, we would have never imagined we would be here today," said Paslier.

"No-one wants to live in a world full of plastic waste but it's not too late to act. There's never been a greater time to use natural solutions to solve the plastic challenge."

Inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s Moonshot challenge in the 1960s and launched by the Prince of Wales in 2020, the Earthshot Prize aims to discover and help scale innovative solutions that put the world firmly on a trajectory toward a stable climate by 2030.

Every year this decade, five Earthshot winners will be chosen for their groundbreaking solutions to five of the greatest environmental challenges facing our planet.

Notpla's award came in a category entitled Build a Waste-Free World, whilst the other categories - Clean our Air, Protect and Restore Nature, Revive our Oceans and Fix our Climate - saw winners from Kenya, India, Australia and Oman respectively.

All prize winners were determined by the Earthshot Council - a panel of judges that included HRH Prince William, broadcaster and environmentalist Sir David Attenbrough, World Trade Organisation director-general Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, actor Cate Blanchett and pop star Shakira Mebarak.

Speaking at the ceremony, The Prince of Wales said: "I believe that the Earthshot solutions you have seen this evening prove we can overcome our planet's greatest challenges. And by supporting and scaling them we can change our future.

"Alongside tonight's winners and finalists, and those to be discovered over the years to come, it's my hope the Earthshot legacy will continue to grow, helping our communities and our planet to thrive."

Image courtesy of the Earthshot Prize.

Be sure to catch Santa's sleigh - your last posting dates for Christmas 2022

With strikes and delays on the cards, Royal Mail advises posting early to beat the festive rush

Royal Mail letterbox

The countdown to Christmas is now well and truly underway, with people all over the world looking to post cards and presents to their nearest and dearest.

These next few weeks will see more post sent than at any time of year and, for those of us who live in the UK, there are two main options for getting your presents delivered this Christmas - the first is good auld Saint Nick and the other is the Royal Mail.

Now, if you've all been good boys and girls, then the first route should prove as trustworthy as ever. Santa Claus is reliable as it gets, but we can't be so certain about the second option.

With Royal Mail staff amongst the many workers undertaking strike action this winter, there are potential delays to both domestic and international mail.

If you want to be certain that your gifts and cards arrive in time for Christmas Day, the Royal Mail's advice is short but clear:

"Allow plenty of time for posting. Please post items and gifts for Christmas early, particularly for international deliveries."

Royal Mail's recommended last posting dates for Christmas 2022:

Domestic Services

  • Fri 16 December: Royal Mail Bulk Mail Economy
  • Mon 19 December: 2nd Class, 2nd Class Signed For, Royal Mail 48
  • Wed 21 December: 1st Class, 1st Class Signed For, Royal Mail 24, Royal Mail Tracked 48*
  • Thu 22 December: Special Delivery Guaranteed, Royal Mail Tracked 24*
  • Fri 23 December: Special Delivery Guaranteed with Saturday Guarantee

* Not available to purchase at Post Office branches. You can buy postage online.

International Standard, Tracking and Signature Services

  • Thu 1 December: Australia & New Zealand
  • Fri 2 December: China
  • Mon 5 December: Caribbean (except British Virgin Islands, Dominica & Anguilla)
  • Wed 7 December: South & Central America, Asia (except China), Africa, Far & Middle East
  • Thu 8 December: Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Turkey, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland & Slovakia)
  • Sat 10 December: USA, Canada, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Finland
  • Mon 12 December: Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark, Norway, Iceland
  • Tue 13 December: France, Belgium, Luxembourg

International HM Forces Airmail

  • Fri 2 December: To Operational & Static HM Forces

Parcelforce Worldwide

A range of international delivery services are available to over 225 countries worldwide at

E-commerce industry set for busy Christmas period

2022 has been a challenging year for the retail industry, with the lingering impacts of Covid-19, supply chain issues, inflation and the associated cost-of-living crisis all proving strong headwinds.

These challenges - and tightened household budgets - will impact the e-commerce sector as much as it will traditional bricks-and-mortar retail this year.

However, one thing is for sure - with e-commerce operations transformed globally during the early part of the pandemic, online sales continue to soar.

Market and consumer data specialist Statista estimates that the global e-commerce sales reached US $4.9 trillion in 2021, up almost 50% from 2019 ($3.3 trillion) with predictions that this figure will top US $7 trillion by 2025.

A strong e-commerce sector is here to stay and, despite the current gloomy economic outlook, online retailers in the UK can still expect a busy few weeks as Christmas approaches.

Stock up for the Christmas rush

With the busiest few weeks of the year ahead, e-commerce retailers will need to ensure that they are well stocked up on packaging essentials before the festive rush, but the good news is that leading UK manufacturer Polybags is setup to deliver last-minute Christmas packaging top-ups as they are needed.

Polybags offers a huge range of quality mailing bags and postal envelopes that are perfect for Christmas deliveries, with their 100%-recycled mailing bag handy packs available in small batches of just 200 bags - ideal for a quick Christmas top-up.

If you're looking for a mailing bag with a bit more Christmas sparkle, then Polybags' range of sparkling mailing bags could even be posted directly to the recipient, as they would look perfectly at home under the tree.

As with all of their products, Polybags' extensive mailing bag range is available with fast and free UK delivery as standard, whilst the company also offer a range of express next day options for those really in a hurry.

So whether you're posting parcels to customers, or presents directly to loved ones - make sure you've got the packaging you need and you get your post off on time this Christmas - otherwise you'll be on the hotline to Santa to bail you out!

Please note: The dates listed above are a guide only and are correct at the time of publication. However, we recommend that you check the Royal Mail website for the latest service updates in the run-up to Christmas.