Waitrose Expands Recyclable Ready Meal Packaging Testing

    Waitrose & Partners is testing three of its Italian ready meals in a widely recyclable tray for two months. The test is larger than the retailer’s initial one in June as it is in the majority of its stores and more ready meals are in the alternative to black plastic tray.

    The supermarket’s investment in a material to replace the black plastic tray, which the ready meals are usually in, has seen it create a fiber-based tray which feels like cardboard. The cream-colored container is Forest Stewardship Council certified and is labeled as widely recycled. It says on the packaging to rinse the tray and put it in with paper recycling. Waitrose & Partners’ Macaroni Cheese, Spaghetti Bolognese and Tuna Pasta Bake meals are in the packaging.

    Currently, much of the black plastic packaging used by supermarkets for food such as ready meals and puddings is not recycled as lasers used by waste processors cannot recognize the color effectively. This means it is not identified for recycling.

    This is the next step in the retailer’s commitment to not sell any private brand product in black plastic packaging beyond 2019.

    Waitrose & Partners has worked with its packaging supplier, Huhtamaki, to use the latest technology to make sure the trays can be heated in the oven and microwave.

    All the retailer’s private label packaging will be widely recycled, reusable or home compostable by 2025.

    Karen Graley, Packaging Manager at Waitrose, says: “Black plastic continues to be a challenge to recycle. This is why we see innovating in alternative materials as so important. If our trial is a success we’ll be looking to roll it out further and this could potentially save millions of plastic trays going to landfill every year.

    “Customer feedback from the June trial has been really positive with shoppers asking where the fiber-based trays went after the trial ended.

    “Ready meals have historically used a great deal of black plastic – but hopefully this will be the beginning of the end for this hard to recycle form of packaging.’’


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    Christopher Durham
    Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.