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See our packaging articles for news that takes a more detailed look at each packaging manufacturing sector.

Can a pile of seaweed be turned into a cardboard box?

Co-op launches plastic recycling scheme

A leading sustainable packaging company is seeking to determine whether seaweed fibres can be used as a raw material in paper and packaging products.

In an industry first, London-based DS Smith will investigate the potential of seaweed as an alternative fibre source to wood, amid increasing demand for sustainable and recyclable goods from consumers.

The FTSE 100-listed company, which operates in 34 countries worldwide, has announced that it is talking to several biotechnology companies to explore the potential use of eco-friendly seaweed fibres in a range of packaging products, such as cartons, paper wraps and cardboard trays.

It will also research seaweed’s potential role as a barrier coating to replace problem plastics and traditional, petroleum-based packaging used to protect many foodstuffs.

"As a leader in sustainability, our research into alternative raw material and fibre sources will help us drive this project forward, looking at seaweed's strength, resilience, recyclable properties, scalability and cost," said Giancarlo Maroto, DS Smith North America's managing director of paper, forestry and recycling.

"Seaweed could have multiple uses with a low ecological footprint that is easily recyclable and naturally biodegradable."

Maroto added that producing packaging from seaweed could use less energy and fewer chemicals to extract the fibres, helping to create the next generation of sustainable packaging solutions.

DS Smith’s seaweed project is part of a $140 million (£120m), five-year circular economy research and development program, designed in part to boost research into alternative fibres and to reduce and eliminate waste.

The project will also look at the potential uses of straw, hemp, cotton and other natural fibres, along with alternative sources, including agricultural waste such as cocoa shells or bagasse - the pulp fibre left over after sugar cane is processed.

Sugar cane has proved a popular renewable source for the packaging industry in recent years. Leading UK manufacturer Polybags' range of eco-friendly packaging includes both 100%-compostable bags derived from renewable materials such as sugar cane or potato starch, along with an innovative range of 'I'm Green' polythene products - produced using green ethanol derived from sugar cane - that perform in the same way as traditional polythene, but are carbon-neutral, 95% renewable and fully recyclable.

DS Smith's research will explore the use of various species of green, brown and red seaweed. If any of them are found to be a viable alternative fibre source to wood, it could mark the plant as the next big thing for the sustainable packaging industry.

It would also provide a further boost to the European seaweed industry, already predicted to be worth almost $11 billion (£9.3bn) by 2030.

Photo by Shane Stagner on Unsplash.

Britvic moves to 100% recycled bottles

Britvic bottles on the production line

Drinks manufacturer Britvic has announced that three of its major brands are making the switch to 100% recycled plastic (rPET) bottles.

Robinsons, Lipton Ice Tea and drench 500ml bottles will be the first to use recycled plastic from a new rPET manufacturing facility in North Yorkshire - a move that will cut Britvic's use of virgin plastic by 1,354 tonnes every year.

The new plant, built by Esterform Packaging Limited, is powered by 100% renewable energy and will provide Britvic - who invested £5m into the facility in 2019 - with a secure supply of quality food-grade rPET in the UK.

"We are extremely proud and excited to see the first use of Esterpet in our iconic brands as they make the move to 100% rPET," said Sarah Webster, Director of Sustainable Business at Britvic.

"It’s a fantastic example of the progress made in the facility with Britvic’s investment support and the first in a series of changes using Esterpet packaging as we continue our journey to fulfil our rPET commitment."

The move marks the latest milestone for Britvic’s Healthier People, Healthier Planet sustainability strategy, which targets a switch to 100% rPET for all British-made bottles by the end of 2022.

The company has also committed to an industry-led, not for profit and GB-wide deposit return scheme to increase recycling levels.

Britvic brands Ballygowan Mineral Water and Fruit Shoot Hydro have already made the switch to 100% rPET bottles, saving 1,900 tonnes of virgin plastic per year.

Image courtesy of Britvic.

Co-op launches plastic recycling scheme

Co-op launches plastic recycling scheme

Co-op has launched Europe's most extensive in-store recycling scheme for plastic bags and food wrappings.

The scheme will see the UK's sixth biggest supermarket become the first to have fully recyclable own-brand food packaging, whilst also tackling the confusing postcode lottery of kerbside collections.

More than 1,500 Co-op stores are set to launch in-store recycling units for 'soft' plastics by the end of July, with a total of 2,300 stores joining the scheme by November.

Co-op says the scheme will provide customers with an accessible disposal route for the sort of materials often not collected by UK councils, including carrier bags - both 'single use' and 'bags for life' - crisp packets, bread bags, biscuit wrappers, pet food pouches and tear-off lids from ready meals and yogurt pots.

The new scheme - which will accept all suitable packaging, regardless of where it is purchased - will ensure that all of Co-op's own food packing is easily recyclable, either via kerbside collection or through the in-house closed loop system.

The retailer, who banned sales of bags for life from its stores earlier this year, estimates that 300 tonnes of plastic bags and food wrapping could be collected per year once the scheme is fully operational.

Jo Whitfield, CEO of Co-op Food, said: "As we face into an environmental crisis, we know from our feedback that there is a universal appetite for change. Which is why we are making it easier for thousands of households to recycle all of their plastic food packaging.

"This will not only prevent unnecessary waste but also reduce plastic pollution. By offering a simple and convenient solution to an everyday issue, we believe we can help communities to make small changes, that together will add up to a big difference for our environment."

In some areas, less than 30 percent of household waste is currently recycled, with systems which can vary from council to council adding to the confusion.

Estimates from the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) suggest that, whilst plastic bags and wrapping make up around a fifth of all plastic packaging - by weight - in UK households, only 6% of it is recycled.

Helen Bird, WRAP's strategic technical manager, said: "There's no doubt that unnecessary plastic needs to be reduced; including bags and wrapping which is a fifth of all consumer plastic packaging. However, where it is necessary it is urgent to design it for recycling and ensure recycling systems are in place.

"It's great to see the roll out of collections across Co-op's stores significantly contributing to the goal of The UK Plastics Pact for all plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2025. Not only is the Co-op ensuring that the service is widely promoted, it is processing the material within the UK, demonstrating how we can build back better for the economy and environment."

Image courtesy of The Co-Op Group.

Carrier bag tax doubles to 10p in England

Shopper carrying a carrier bag

Shoppers in England must now pay 10p for a carrier bag - double the original charge - as part of the government's drive to reduce the use of 'single use' plastic.

The increased charge, which came into effect on 21 May, must now be applied by all retailers, including corner shops and other small retailers who were previously exempt.

Retailers new to the carrier bag scheme can find a list of their responsibilities - including which bags to charge for and their reporting requirements - in a helpful guide to the Carrier Bag Tax published by leading manufacturer Polybags.

The 5p levy on plastic carrier bags was first introduced in England in 2015, leading to a 95% reduction in their use since - a statistic hailed by the government as proof of the scheme's success.

"The introduction of the 5p charge has been a phenomenal success," said environment minister Rebecca Pow.

"We know we must go further to protect our natural environment and oceans, which is why we are now extending this charge to all businesses."

The new 'single-use' carrier bag?

But whilst traditional carrier bag use has reduced under the scheme, a 2019 report by Greenpeace found that plastic use was on the rise in seven out of 10 UK supermarkets.

This increase was being driven largely by a surge in demand for reusable 'bags for life', sales of which had shot up 25% to a staggering 1.5 billion.

Chart: How many times must a bag be reused to make it more eco-friendly than a carrier bag

In April, the Co-op banned sales of 'bags for life' from its stores, warning that consumers were using the stronger, more durable bags as the 'new single-use carrier'.

Customers at the supermarket in need of a bag can now spend 10p on a compostable carrier bag that offers a sustainable second use as a kitchen caddy bin liner.

Is there such a thing as a 'single-use' plastic bag?

Critics of the government's approach to plastic waste argue that applying the term 'single-use' to the traditional carrier bags itself undermines what should be its key message - the principles of reuse and recycling.

Carrier bag recycling is very widespread these days. Shoppers may not be aware that most major supermarkets have a collection point for used carrier bags.

Ideally, bags recycled at these points will have been reused as many times as possible before they are recycled.

After all, carrier bags were designed to be reused. Their inventor, Sten Gustaf Thulin, always carried one around in his pocket for this very reason, as the bags offered an eco-friendly alternative to paper bags - the predominant shopping bag of the time.

A 2011 Environment Agency report¹ found that a paper bag must be used at least three times to be more eco-friendly than a traditional carrier bag used just once (see chart above).

Bags for life fared even worse in the analysis, with the thinner HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) bags requiring four uses and the sturdier non-woven PP (Polypropylene) bags needing 11 uses to be deemed more eco-friendly than a traditional carrier.

Worst of all, the report found that a cotton bag must be used a staggering 131 times to be more eco-friendly than a traditional carrier bag, largely due to the high amount of energy used to produce and fertilise cotton yarn.

Critics have called for the government to use some of the money raised by the Carrier Bag Tax to properly promote the principles of 'Reuse and Recycle' for every type of bag, whilst ending once and for all the notion that any product should be 'single use'.

¹ Environment Agency report (February 2011): Life cycle assessment of supermarket carrier bags: a review of the bags available in 2006

Do you like green Skittles? Sweet brand switches to compostable packaging

Skittles on the production line

Mars Wrigley, one of the world's leading confectionery manufacturers, has announced plans for its famous Skittles brand to switch to compostable packaging.

The US giant has teamed up with Danimer Scientific - a leading developer and manufacturer of biodegradable material - for a two-year partnership that they believe will "develop an innovative home compostable packaging for a more sustainable planet."

The first brand to get the eco-packaging treatment will be Skittles, enabling their US consumers to enjoy a more environmentally-friendly sweet treat.

Mars aims to leverage the company’s global portfolio of iconic treats and snacks to enable consumers to compost at home, working together with consumers and supply-chain partners to support a healthy planet.

"The impact of plastic on nature is one of the major sustainability challenges of our generation," said Alastair Child, Mars Wrigley VP of Global Sustainability.

"There are no simple solutions and transformational innovation is necessary, we have to think and act differently. Collaborating with Danimer to advance this breakthrough technology represents a major step to creating positive societal impact and better environmental outcomes across the full lifecycle of small, flexible packaging."

The new Skittles packets will be made of Nodax polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) - a biodegradable material which the manufacturers claim will "reliably break down in both industrial composting facilities and backyard compost units", to offer a greener packaging solution to "environmentally-conscious consumers and retailers."

The material - which Danimer Scientific describes as its "signature packaging" - is produced through natural fermentation processes, using plant oils such as soy and canola, to produce packaging that biodegrades in both soil and marine environments.

Mars says it will continue to evaluate opportunities to scale this novel, innovative and sustainable packaging technology across its portfolio of brands and categories, through both flexible and rigid packaging.

"Expectations for sustainable packaging vary from market to market, making it essential for new materials to be adaptable in meeting different standards without sacrificing quality," said Stephen Croskrey, CEO at Danimer Scientific.

"PHA provides a versatile platform for manufacturing material that is renewably sourced and leaves a minimal impact on the environment upon disposal. We look forward to working with Mars Wrigley in fighting the global crisis of plastic waste."

Image courtesy of Mars Wrigley.

Packaging crisis continues as price of polymer hits record high

Polymer prices - May 2021

Pressure on the UK's packaging industry shows no sign of abating as polymer prices continue to hit record highs.

The price of polymer resins - the material used to make plastic - has risen sharply for six consecutive months, from an average price of around £800 per tonne in November to £1,850 per tonne in May - a 127% increase.

Despite industry efforts to prevent costs being passed on to customers, the sustained hike in raw polymer prices - driven by a shortage of polymer supply - is likely to lead to an increase in packaging prices for a range of household items.

As the intensifying crisis ramps up pressure on manufacturers across the continent, a leading industry body has warned that the economic survival of numerous small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is under threat, along with the production of a variety of products, including essential goods for packaging supply chains.

According to European Plastics Convertors (EuPC), there are more than 50,000 SMEs across the industry in Europe, 90% of whom have been affected by the supply crisis.

The body reports that many companies have been forced to reduce production and accept fewer or no new customers in order to honour existing agreements, with the supply of essential goods for the food and pharmaceutical industries threatened if the crisis continues.

"Manufacturers of plastic products all over Europe are experiencing serious bottlenecks in the supply of raw materials since the beginning of this year," said EuPC managing director Alexandre Dangis.

"Delivery problems have become increasingly widespread, affecting raw materials... as well as special additives that are crucial for the manufacture of compounds and plastic products.

"The serious market disruptions currently taking place all over Europe are a symptom of the structural imbalance in Europe between the local production of and demand for raw materials and additives. Without restoration of that balance, periodic recurrence of gross disruption of the production chain is highly likely. Ultimately, end customers will also suffer damage due to disruptions in the delivery of (semi-)finished products."

The polymer crisis has been driven by an increase in demand for raw materials since covid-19 restrictions were first eased in the second half of 2020, combined with a slump in supplies, notably from the United States, from where Europe gets most of its supply.

US production and exports to Europe were hit by a damaging hurricane season last autumn, whilst a lack of shipping containers and an increase in the price of crude oil - from which polymer resins are derived - has exacerbated the problem.

Co-op bans 'bags for life' - the 'new single-use carrier'

Co-op scraps bags for life and moves to compostable carriers

The Co-op has become the latest UK supermarket to halt the sale of 'bags for life' from its stores, warning that the reusable plastic bag has become the 'new single-use carrier'.

The bags will be phased out immediately from all 2,600 Co-op stores, so that once stocks are gone, they will not be replaced and sales will cease.

Customers still wishing to purchase a bag will be able to buy a compostable carrier bag for 10p that offers a sustainable second use as a kitchen caddy bin liner.

In 2019, Greenpeace reported an increase in the amount of plastic produced by UK supermarkets - to 900,000 tonnes per year - driven largely by sales of more than 1.5 billion bags for life.

Bags for life use more plastic in their production than traditional 'single-use' carrier bags, thus increasing the amount of plastic in circulation.

The Co-op’s new initiative will remove 29.5 million bags for life, weighing around 870 tonnes of plastic, from sale each year.

The UK's sixth biggest supermarket has welcomed the increase in the carrier bag levy to 10p in April, but has called on the government to go further still.

Its new 'Bag to Rights' report, launched today to accompany the announcement on the bags-for-life ban, sets out policy recommendations for government, which include:

  • Requiring major retailers to report sales of all reusable bags, as well as single-use bags, to increase transparency and assess the true impact of the carrier bag levy
  • Requiring all 'single-use' carrier bags to be certified compostable
  • The introduction of a minimum 50p price for reusable bags, to create a greater perceived value and encourage customer reuse, instead of treating them as single-use bags

Co-op Food chief executive Jo Whitfield said: "Many shoppers are regularly buying so called 'bags for life' to use just once and it's leading to a major hike in the amount of plastic being produced.

"To help tackle plastic pollution and the use of unnecessary plastic, we will be ceasing the sale of bags for life when current stocks are exhausted.

"We're also ensuring all of our members and customers have access to a low price point option that's more environmentally friendly, alongside more durable bags at a higher price point."

Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), said: "All bags, regardless of the material they are made from, impact on the environment. The most important thing to reduce this impact is reuse. Just as we all now carry a mask about ourselves, we should be doing the same with shopping bags.

"Supermarkets have a responsibility to incentivise this and we would like to see transparent reporting on all types of shopping bags – whether they are made of traditional plastic, compostable plastic or paper.

"There will be times when we forget to bring a bag and in these instances we can still reuse those bags, and at the end of their life we recycle them at supermarket collection points. For Co-op's shoppers this means that they are able to reuse carrier bags and if they have a food waste collection then they can use it as a caddy liner."

Image courtesy of Co-operative Group Limited.

Hellmann's make switch to 100% recycled plastic bottles

Hellmann's switch to 100% recycled plastic bottles

Hellmann's, one of the UK's most popular condiment brands, is switching its 'squeezy' range to bottles made from 100% recycled plastic.

The Unilever brand has already switched 40% of the range - including its Light, Lighter than Light, Vegan and flavoured mayonnaise bottles - to post-consumer recycled PET (rPET), with plans for the full Hellmann's range to follow by the end of 2022.

Unilever said the move will save approximately 14 million virgin plastic bottles - around 1,480 tonnes of virgin plastic - from being used every year, once the full range is moved.

The switch is part of the company's commitment to halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses and make all of its packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The new bottles have been made using food-grade standard recycled plastic - which has a slightly darker tint than virgin plastic - and they feature a 'New 100% Recycled Bottle' logo on the front.

"At Hellmann’s we believe food is too good to be wasted, and now we’re helping to reduce plastic waste too," said Andre Burger, vice president of foods and refreshment at Unilever UK & Ireland.

"With our new 100% recycled plastic bottles, which are also fully recyclable, we’re providing shoppers with an accessible and simple way to help make their households and mealtimes more sustainable – whilst continuing to enjoy the products they love.

"Our Hellmann’s bottles are our first food brand in the UK to use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, and whilst making the switch has not been without its challenges, these learnings will enable us to accelerate the move of other Unilever food brands to using more recycled plastic too."

By 2025, Unilever pledges to:

  • Halve the amount of virgin plastic used in their packaging and achieve an absolute reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use
  • Help collect and process more plastic packaging than they sell
  • Ensure that 100% of their plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastic material in their packaging to at least 25%

Image courtesy of Hellmann's / Unilever.

Scientists develop compostable plastic that breaks down with just heat and water

Compostable plastic (right) containing polyester-eating enzymes before (left) and after (right) 3 days in compost. © UC Berkeley

US scientists have developed a biodegradable plastic that breaks down in just a few weeks when exposed to heat and water.

The breakthrough, made by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, has the potential to transform the plastics industry if it can be applied at scale.

Biodegradable plastics have been championed as one possible solution to the problem of plastic pollution, but some products labelled 'biodegradable' or 'compostable' do not actually break down in typical composting conditions, and can create problems if sent for recycling.

"People are now prepared to move into biodegradable polymers for single-use plastics, but if it turns out that it creates more problems than it’s worth, then the policy might revert back," said Ting Xu, a UC Berkeley professor and author of the research paper, published in the journal Nature.

"We are basically saying that we are on the right track. We can solve this continuing problem of single-use plastics not being biodegradable."

One of the most commonly-used compostable plastics is polylactic acid (PLA) - a synthetic polymer derived from plant-based materials, which is designed to biodegrade in industrial compost but can last as long as regular plastics if it ends up in landfill.

Now Professor Xu and her team have invented a way to make these compostable plastics break down within just a few weeks using heat and water.

The molecular structure of the most durable plastics is almost crystal-like and so strong that the polymer fibres are impenetrable to water, or indeed the microbes that might break them down.

But the UC Berkeley team's breakthrough came when they embedded polyester-eating enzymes into polyester as the material is made.

Billions of these nanoscale particles were embedded in the resin beads that are the starting point for plastic manufacturing. Xu compares this process to embedding pigments in plastic to color them.

Modified PLA plastic immediately after being placed in compost (left) and one week later (right). © UC Berkeley

The enzymes were protected by a simple polymer wrapping, which is released and degrades on exposure to heat and water, allowing the enzymes to break down the plastic into its original building blocks. In the case of PLA, this reduces it to lactic acid, which feeds the soil microbes in compost.

"If you have the enzyme only on the surface of the plastic, it would just etch down very slowly," Xu said. "You want it distributed nanoscopically everywhere so that, essentially, each of them just needs to eat away their polymer neighbours, and then the whole material disintegrates."

Triggered by water and a little heat, 80 percent of the modified PLA fibres degraded entirely within about one week, whilst the process was even faster at higher temperatures, such as those employed in industrial composting.

The majority of compostable packaging products on the market today - such as this range of compostable carrier bags from leading UK manufacturer Polybags - are designed to disintegrate within a matter of weeks and fully biodegrade within a few months in industrial composting conditions.

Whilst these products offer a handy waste management solution to those with a food waste collection service at their disposal - which ends up in industrial composting - Xu's discovery has the potential to go one giant step further, with products that degrade in just warm water.

"It turns out that composting is not enough - people want to compost in their home without getting their hands dirty, they want to compost in water," said Xu.

"So, that is what we tried to see. We used warm tap water. Just warm it up to the right temperature, then put it in, and we see in a few days it disappears."

The full research paper is available to read at Nature.com.

Images courtesy of UC Berkeley.

Packaging prices set to rise as polymer prices rocket

Chart - Polymer prices 2020-21

Packaging manufacturers have warned of a possible increase in the price of packaging, following a recent surge in the cost of polymer resins used to make plastic.

Polymer prices have more than doubled since November, rocketing from an average price of approximately £800 per tonne to over £1,600 per tonne in April.

Polyethylene and polypropylene resins are used to make a range of packaging products, including plastic bottles, bags and film, as well as a variety of food packaging and containers.

Whilst some packaging manufacturers have been doing their best to keep prices low - helped to date by long-term supply contracts - the sustained hike in prices has increased pressure throughout the supply chain.

If raw material prices remain high, packaging manufacturers across Europe will inevitably be forced to increase prices, thereby squeezing profit margins for supermarkets and smaller retailers, which will eventually lead to increased costs for consumers.

Renato Zelcher, chief executive at Crocco - an Italian polyethylene manufacturer - told the Financial Times that the crisis spelled "disaster" for his company's results, and warned that costs will inevitably be passed on to the consumer.

"Eventually our customers will notice higher prices. If we don’t do that, we will go bankrupt," he said.

Polymer prices have risen to a six-year high this spring, due to an increase in demand and a slump in supplies, driven by a combination of factors.

US polyethylene production and exports to Europe were hit last autumn following a damaging hurricane season. Imports into Europe have been hit further by a lack of shipping containers, whilst an increase in the price of crude oil - from which polymer resins are derived - has squeezed costs further still.

Polybags publish packaging guide to beat Covid lockdown

The Polybags Packaging Survival Guide to Covid-19 Lockdown

Has your business been affected by Covid-19? The answer to that question is almost certainly 'yes', as the impact of the pandemic has been so widespread and far-reaching.

Businesses in every sector across the UK have been forced to adapt to new ways of working, with offices, shops, pubs and restaurants forced to close, employees working from home and customers making the move online like never before.

To help businesses adapt to this brave new world, leading UK manufacturer Polybags has published the Packaging Survival Guide to Covid-19 Lockdown, to help businesses find the packaging they need to survive and thrive during these uncertain times.

The handy guide covers a range of situations that businesses might find themselves in during lockdown, offering solutions for packaging that they may require as they make necessary changes to their business.

The Greenford company, which turns 60 this year, says the guide aims "to help businesses of all shapes and sizes get the most from their packaging during lockdown and emerge on the other side in a better place."

So whether you are a retailer in need of mailing bags for deliveries, a business in need of packing bags to protect furniture in lockdown storage, or a cafe looking for vacuum bags to save a load of perishable food during lockdown, this guide has got you covered.

Polybags have broken down the guide into helpful sections to answer commonly-asked lockdown packaging questions, from ways to get deliveries to stand out from the crowd, to helping businesses using lockdown to spruce up their premises.

For companies using the extra time afforded by lockdown to rethink their business strategy, Polybags' guide offers some handy and affordable printed packaging solutions to help advertise your business and boost your brand.

There is also a helpful section on eco-packaging for the many companies using lockdown as an opportunity to make their business more eco-friendly.

For all this and more, check out Polybags' packaging survival guide today and see how they can help your business during lockdown.

Image courtesy of Polybags.

Heinz cans plastic wrapping

Multipack wrappers to be replaced by recyclable cardboard sleeves

Heinz's cardboard sleeves

"Wave goodbye to multipack plastic, say hello to recyclable cardboard packaging."

That's the message from food giant Heinz as they unveil a new, eco-friendly cardboard sleeve set to replace plastic wrapping on all of their multipack products.

The Heinz Eco-Friendly Sleeve Multipack is available now on Heinz soups as part of the 'winter bundle' on the company's home delivery service, Heinz to Home, and is set to launch across all Heinz canned products at major UK retailers from autumn 2021.

Produced from renewable and sustainably managed forests, the fully-recyclable sleeve has been certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

It uses 10 percent less material than a traditional paperboard sleeve design and 50 percent less than a fully enclosed wraparound box - an optimised design employed by Heinz to help minimise the product's carbon footprint.

Perhaps conscious of paper's unfavourable carbon footprint when compared to equivalent plastic products, Heinz have pointed out that the manufacturing and transport of this new innovative sleeve is carbon neutral. The company says they are also advancing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Kraft Heinz’s Northern Europe President Jojo de Noronha is hopeful that the new sleeve's convenience and sustainability will prove a hit with customers.

"It is clear that convenience is important to shoppers – research has found that 59% of UK shoppers say that if a package is easy to carry or transport, it is impactful to their overall satisfaction with the product," said de Noronha.

"Sustainable packaging has a significant impact, too, with 71% of UK shoppers agreeing that they are more satisfied with a product if it is easily recycled or composted.

"Grounded in shopper insight, we feel this new recyclable and easy-to-carry paperboard sleeve ticks both of those boxes and is the perfect eco-friendly solution for our multipacks.

"Our packaging innovation team continues to work hard to develop further sustainable solutions across our business as we make a £25m investment over three years to implement the infrastructure needed to ensure this roll-out is a success, which will be a win for the environment as well as shoppers across the UK."

The Kraft Heinz Company is the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world, with eight different (US) billion-dollar brands in its portfolio.

Image courtesy of Heinz UK.

UK's biggest businesses cut plastic packaging by 40%

The UK Plastics Pact Annual Report 2019-20

The UK's biggest businesses have cut their use of unnecessary plastic packaging by 40 percent in the last year, a new report has revealed.

Signatories to The UK Plastics Pact - which include Unilever, Nestle and PepsiCo - between them produced 40% fewer non-recyclable and unnecessary pieces of plastic packaging in 2019, compared to 2018.

The figures were revealed by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in The UK Plastic Pact's second annual report, which demonstrated good progress by its members against targets and good progress in plastic recycling at home.

Whilst the figures show much-needed progress is being made, the charity’s chief executive, Marcus Gover, warns that significant challenges lie ahead which require urgent attention to keep the UK on track.

"It’s great to see UK Plastics Pact members cutting unnecessary plastic packaging by 40% and increasing recycling to 50% in just one year," said Grover.

"This was exactly why we set up the Pact - to tackle problematic plastic, increase reuse and recycling, and stop plastic polluting the environment. I am delighted with the progress and very pleased to see leading businesses trialling refill and reuse alternatives."

Data from the report showed the following progress by Pact members in 2019:

  • Target 1: A 40% reduction in plastic items classed as problematic or unnecessary sold (400 million) compared to 2018
  • Target 2: 64% of plastic packaging sold by Pact members continues to be recyclable
  • Target 3: UK plastic packaging recycling levels increased to 50% (from 44% in 2018)
  • Target 4: Average recycled content increased to 13% (from 9% in 2018)

The UK Plastics Pact brings together UK businesses, governments and NGOs to tackle plastic waste. It is the first such initiative in the world working to create a circular economy for plastics.

Their 2019-20 UK annual report, which includes further details on the Pact's targets, progress and timelines, can be found at wrap.org.uk.

Aldi launches first 100%-recylable freezer bag

Aldi's new 100% recycled freezer bag

Aldi has become the first UK supermarket to launch a 100% recyclable own-brand freezer bag.

The eco-friendly bags, which retail at 99p, are first being sold in 230 stores across parts of England, with plans to roll them out across Aldi's 900 UK stores if the trial is successful.

Made from 95% recyclable polyethylene and 5% seafood waste - also known as 'shell waste' - the new bags are also treated with an antimicrobial agent that has been proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mould.

"It’s more important than ever to strike a balance between reducing single-use plastic and maintaining food hygiene," said Chris McKenry, Aldi UK's plastics and packaging director.

"Thanks to its antimicrobial qualities, this recyclable freezer bag enables us to continue on our mission to eradicate unnecessary non-recyclable materials while also offering customers a more hygienic way of storing and transporting food.

"Our promise to always offer quality at unbeatable prices goes beyond just great food – it’s about catering to the needs of our customers in every way we can, and a rapidly-growing number of those who shop with us want to do so sustainably without breaking the bank."

Aldi is the UK's fifth-largest supermarket, but is currently the only one to offer a 100% recyclable own-brand freezer bag.

The trial, which runs in the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the north west, north east and south east of England, is the latest initiative made by Aldi in its bid to become a more sustainable retailer.

In October, the German-owned retailer announced plans to scrap single-use bags for loose fruit and vegetables from all of its stores by the end of the year - part of a drive to make 100% of its own-label packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2022, with the same target for branded goods by 2025.

Image courtesy of Aldi UK.

Get your parcels on Santa's sleigh - last posting dates for Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020 posting dates

"Christmas is coming,
The goose is overweight.
Remember these last posting dates,
So your presents aren't all late!"

It's that time of year when people post Christmas presents to loved ones in the UK and all over the world.

Getting cards and gifts in the post nice and early is always important if you want them to arrive in time for the big day - but never has that been more true than in 2020.

With postal systems already creaking under the weight of the coronavirus and a further surge expected in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it's never been more important to take heed of the all-important cut-off dates for getting your present or card in the post.

Here are Royal Mail's last posting dates for Christmas 2020:

Domestic Services

  • Fri 18 December: 2nd Class and 2nd Class Signed For
  • Mon 21 December: 1st Class and 1st Class Signed For and Royal Mail Tracked 48*
  • Tue 22 December: Royal Mail Tracked 24*
  • Wed 23 December: Special Delivery Guaranteed

* Tracked 24/48 services not available to purchase at Post Office branches.

International Services

  • Fri 4 December: Australia, New Zealand
  • Wed 9 December: Africa, Asia, Caribbean, South & Central America, Middle East
  • Thu 10 December: Canada, Cyprus, Malta
  • Fri 11 December: Greece, Turkey, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland & Slovakia)
  • Sat 12 December: Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA
  • Wed 16 December: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland
  • Fri 18 December: Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg

Alongside their recommended posting dates, Royal Mail also issued the following warning to its customers:

"Due to the global Coronavirus pandemic affecting mail services in most countries, we strongly advise posting all international mail as early as possible to ensure your letters and parcels arrive in time for Christmas.

Royal Mail will employ an extra 13,000 temporary staff to cope with the expected frenzy of online shopping this Christmas, as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions force more people away from the high street.

A busy few weeks lie in store for businesses and shoppers alike, with packaging manufacturers braced for the festive rush.

Online retailers in need of a last-minute Christmas packaging top-up will be pleased to find a huge range of mailing bags on sale at the UK's number one manufacturer, Polybags, whose market-leading eco-packaging range includes a wide variety of eco-friendly postage solutions made from compostable, biodegradable and 100%-recycled material.

For the rest of us, the key is to get your shopping done and your cards written early and then don't miss the boat - or is that sleigh? - when it comes to last posting dates.

For full details of recommended last posting dates, visit royalmail.com/greetings. You can also keep up-to-date with the very latest service updates from across the country.

Coco-Cola launches paper bottle prototype

Coca-Cola's paper bottle prototype

Coca-Cola has announced plans to develop a 100% paper bottle.

The soft drink giant is partnering with Danish startup Paboco - short for the Paper Bottle Company - to develop the innovative design.

The first-generation prototype consists of a paper shell with a 100% recycled plastic closure and liner inside, with efforts now geared towards creating a paper bottle without the plastic liner.

Stijn Franssen, R&D packaging innovation manager at Coca-Cola EMEA, believes the innovation could signal the start of an exciting new chapter in packaging.

"Our vision is to create a paper bottle that can be recycled like any other type of paper, and this prototype is the first step on the way to achieving this," said Franssen.

"A paper bottle opens up a whole new world of packaging possibilities, and we are convinced that paper packaging has a role to play in the future."

Franssen’s team is conducting extensive lab testing at The Coca-Cola Company’s research and development centre in Brussels, where it will assess how the paper bottle performs and protects its contents in various scenarios, including refrigeration.

Whilst the project is still in its early stages of development, Paboco's business development manager Michael Michelsen believes it has the potential to be a breakthrough for the packaging industry.

"We’re focused on several different development areas, which all tie back to our vision of creating a 100% recyclable and bio-based bottle," said Michelsen.

"This has potential to be a real breakthrough in circularity for the industry, unearthing huge potential in how packaging is designed, produced and used by consumers.

"Changing an industry requires progress in increments and a push for sustainable change. The paper bottle concept remains a work in progress, and being able to truly evolve and scale to meet producer and consumer demand is one of the critical challenges to overcome."

Image courtesy of Coca-Cola EMEA.

Is your business ready for Christmas? Don't miss these last minute packaging offers!

  • United Kingdom - Festive special offers plus a great deal on promotional mailing bags & carrier bags from Polybags
  • North America - Fantastic Christmas packaging offers from Box and Wrap (US) and Canadian Tire
  • Australia - PaperPak have a fabulous selection of Christmas gift bags

Check out these Christmas packaging offers from around the world

Christmas packaging 2020

2020 has been a tough year for the retail sector but, with Christmas approaching, the next few weeks still promise to be the busiest and most important of the year.

After a year hit by covid-19, retailers all over the world will be hoping for a Christmas boost as shoppers get ready to part with their cash and pick up some festive bargains.

The Christmas countdown clock is ticking and, with quality seasonal packaging more important than ever, now is the time for retailers to stock up on bags, boxes and wrapping that will bring festive cheer to their customers, whilst getting the job done.

Many retailers will have sorted printed festive packaging well in advance but, with well-stocked packaging supplies more crucial than at any other time of year, the good news is there are still plenty of bargains to be had, wherever you are in the world.

In the United States, wholesale packaging specialists Box and Wrap have a huge selection of Christmas gift bags, wrapping and packaging available, with free shipping on all orders over $300.

Canadian retailers can pick-up Christmas gift boxes and kraft paper gift bags at Canadian Tire, where they can also grab themselves a half-price pre-lit Christmas tree!

In Australia, leading manufacturer PaperPak has a fabulous range of Christmas gift bags to choose from, whilst there's still time to get your own custom printed paper bags if you want to make your brand go that bit further.

As much of the UK prepares to come out of lockdown, retailers looking for a pre-Christmas boost can grab some fantastic festive special offers at Polybags.

The UK's number one polythene manufacturer currently has a whopping 20% off stylish gift carrier bags and tough and sleek black security mailing bags - perfect for those last-minute Christmas deliveries.

With over 100 million polythene bags in stock - including an extensive range of carrier bags and a huge selection of eco-packaging - plus fast-free UK delivery on all orders with next-day or express options, whatever packaging your business needs this Christmas, Polybags has got you covered.

With the welcome confirmation that Santa is immune to covid-19, it looks like Christmas 2020 will be saved, so don't delay there's no time like the present to get your festive packaging sorted.

Product images courtesy of Polybags.co.uk, Boxandwrap.com, Canadiantire.ca and Paperpak.co.

Ribena redesign targets '100% bottle-to-bottle' recycling

Ribena's new design (right) alongside the old one

Ribena, one of the UK's favourite drinks brands, has unveiled a new '100% recycled' bottle that will save over 200 tonnes of plastic per year.

The new design, which features a drastically reduced sleeve, will also improve the brand's recycling rates within the current UK recycling infrastructure.

Although the current Ribena bottle is made from clear, recyclable plastic, the long dark sleeve that covers it can prevent sensors at some recycling plants from identifying the bottle and sorting it into the correct recycling stream.

Ribena says the new design makes it the UK’s largest soft drinks brand to use bottles which are made from 100% recycled plastic and are 100% bottle-to-bottle recyclable.

Suntory Beverage and Food GB and Ireland (SBF GB&I), who own the Ribena brand, invested £1.6m on the redesign, which took two years to complete.

The company sees the development as a key step in reaching its targets of making plastic packaging "completely sustainable" by 2030 and reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Recycled plastic helps towards this second aim as it has a lower carbon footprint than virgin plastic.

From January 2021, all 500ml Ribena bottles manufactured in the UK and Ireland will feature the new design.

Suntory also plans to roll out the design to two of its other brands, Lucozade Sport and Lucozade Energy, within the next 18 months - which will reportedly save 1,100 tonnes of plastic each year.

Carol Robert, COO at SBF GB&I, said: "Making sure that our bottles can be easily recycled and turned back into bottles is an important part of our journey towards full circularity and net zero emissions.

"Simplifying the packaging of our drinks to help consumers to recycle is just one of our many investments in making our soft drinks more sustainable. From climate-change resilient blackcurrants to promoting biodiversity on our farms, we’re working to make Ribena more sustainable from bush to bottle."

The new design was welcomed by the Recycling Association, WRAP and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Environment minister Rebecca Pow MP said: "It is this kind of innovation that we want to see to create a more circular economy for our waste and resources, with more materials being recycled and reused and less being consigned to landfill or incineration."

Record number of temps to boost Royal Mail effort this Christmas

Royal Mail will recruit a record number of temps this year to deal with a surge in online shopping

Royal Mail has announced plans to hire a record 33,000 temporary workers this Christmas - an increase of two-thirds on usual levels.

The news comes as UK retailers prepare for a frenzy of online Christmas shopping due to covid-19, with over half of consumers planning to buy more online presents this festive season.

Royal Mail traditionally hires 20,000 temporary staff to cope with the Christmas rush but, with the pandemic forcing shoppers online as high streets close across the country, an extra 13,000 temps will be brought in this year.

The extra staff will help with deliveries and in sorting offices and data centres.

Sally Ashford, chief human resources officer at the Royal Mail, said: "During these unprecedented times we believe it is critical that Royal Mail continues to deliver.

"We want to do our best to deliver Christmas for our customers and support the effort on the pandemic. This helps the whole country to celebrate and stay safe during these difficult times."

Retail analysts predict that online shopping will eclipse high street shopping this year for the first time - 31% of shopping was done online last Christmas - as the pandemic forces a significant change in consumer behaviour.

In line with this, a Post Office survey has revealed that more than one in five people (22%) have already decided to send gifts via the post rather than giving them in person this year, whilst over half (51%) plan to buy more presents online this year.

Many retailers have been forced to adapt to the changing marketplace and their packaging needs have changed as a result, with mailing bag orders on the up as online transactions increasingly supplement in-store sales.

For those retailers who may be new to e-commerce, the good news is that the choice of mailing bags available on the market today has never been greater.

Leading UK manufacturer Polybags has recently expanded their market-leading range of eco-packaging with a number of new eco-friendly mailing bags, including starch-based compostable mailers and carbon-neutral renewable 'I'm Green' mailers.

These new eco-friendly postage solutions supplement Polybags' extensive range of mailing bags, which has something to meet every business' delivery needs this Christmas - from extra-strong heavy duty mailers to sparkling bubble-lined mailers.

Mark Siviter, managing director of mails and retail at the Post Office, said: "We know this Christmas will be unlike any most of us have ever experienced, but our desire to show loved ones we care about them through cards and gift giving hasn’t diminished.

"We know we’ll be extra busy this year and there will be extra Christmas helpers in branch to support. We are also urging everyone to plan ahead by posting early and visiting branches during off-peak hours where possible."