environment recycling sustainability

Recycled plastic in food packaging

What do you think of this? Good that plastic is being recycled? Or should all of their packaging be recycled materials? 🙂

In attempts to find more environmentally friendly packaging solutions and reduce its carbon footprint, Woolworths has now become the first major South African retailer to begin using post-consumer recycled plastic in foods packaging. Since the beginning of September, Woolworths ready-to-eat sandwiches have been packed in containers made with 30% rPET (recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate) made from recycled plastic bottles. Recycling 1 ton of PET bottles not only saves 6.2 cubic metres of landfill space but also saves enough energy to keep a 15 watt energy-saver light glowing for 24 hours. Woolworths first began using rPET fibre several years ago for the filling in duvets and pillows.

Woolworths is currently working towards moving beyond the 30% mark and also plans to roll out rPET packaging to juice bottles and other plastic packaging shortly. Zyda Rylands, Managing Director of Foods at Woolworths explains that there is no compromise on food safety. “The recycled PET comes primarily from locally collected soft drink and water bottles and is scrupulously cleaned by the local supplier, who has invested some R20 million in a food grade recycling plant and is the first recycler in the world to be certified by the British Retail Consortium. The resulting plastic meets or exceeds international standards for food safety”.

Recycling PET has economic advantages as well. “Using rPET reduces CO2 emissions and cuts our dependence on imported oil stocks used to make virgin plastic”, says Rylands. “It also helps create jobs: it is estimated that some 10 000 people earn income from collecting bottles. Woolworths remains firmly committed to reducing food packaging and to introducing recycled materials where possible. Not only have we eliminated over 600 tons of foods packaging – more than 23% of the product lines in food currently contain recycled packaging materials, and most of the sleeves on our ready-made meals, dips and other food products are made from cardboard with a 80% recycled paper content.”

4 replies on “Recycled plastic in food packaging”

No point in being green enough to collect your plastic waste for recycling, unless you are willing to use that recycled product. Enthusiastic Woolies customer here, supporting their triple bottom line.

Well, great work there Woolies… but I have to wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just use less packaging? I mean, every green pepper in Woolies is individually packaged – where else do they do this?

The trend for packaging is to both use less material and try to recycle as much as possible. However, it is very difficult achieving 100% recycled plastic products for packaging. That is, recycled plastic does not look as nice and is usually less versatile to use. Therefore, packaging is usually made from only a percentage of recycled materials (mixed with virgin plastic resins).

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