Waitrose & Partners is launching the world’s first home compostable private brand ready meal packaging as it moves nearly nine million products out of black plastic.

The packaging will initially replace many of the retailer’s Italian ready meal trays, saving 158 tons of black plastic. The new cream-colored containers, which are fiber based and similar in texture to cardboard, are now certified home compostable.

Waitrose has worked with its suppliers, Huhtamaki and Saladworks, to use the latest technology to make sure the trays can be heated in the oven and microwave and is cool to touch after cooking. The fiber-based packaging is Forest Stewardship Council certified, creates a 50% saving in Co2 emissions, and can also be recycled.

The packaging innovation means millions of ready meals will be taken out of hard-to-recycle black plastic as Waitrose continues its lead in removing the material on all its own brand products by the end of 2019.

This is the first phase of the grocer’s plans to replace black plastic on all its ready meals and follows the retailer’s success in removing black plastic on its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and veg earlier this year.

The majority of black plastic packaging is colored using carbon black pigments which do not enable the pack to be easily sorted by the systems widely used in plastics recycling. As a result, black plastic packaging can commonly end up as residue and disposed of in landfill.

Karen Graley, Manager, Packaging & Reprographics, Waitrose & Partners,

Karen Graley, Manager, Packaging & Reprographics, Waitrose & Partners, said: “Pioneering the first home compostable ready meal packaging that ensures customers can continue to cook their food quickly, safely, and now more sustainably, is a major breakthrough in packaging innovation. This step – combined with moving millions of ready meals out of black plastic –  is a significant milestone in how we package food and eliminate hard to recycle material for good.”

Other examples of Waitrose packaging innovation include the retailer’s Duchy organic tomato packaging which is partly made from the tomato plant mixed with recycled paper.

The new Italian ready meal packaging will be available in Waitrose & Partners shops from 29 May and will now include Chilli Prawn Spaghetti, Broccoli Orechiette and Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Bake.

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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.