Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
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UK Grocers Turning Waste into Packaging

British grocery chains Tesco and Waitrose have added a new facet to their waste-mitigation efforts by launching upcycled packaging.

Beginning this month, Tesco shoppers could get their groceries in recycled plastic bags made from back-of-store waste plastic, such as pallet and multi-pack wrapping. Recycling firm Eurokey is collecting and sorting Tesco’s plastic waste, and plastics recycler Papier-Mettier is processing it and turning it into single-use carrier bags.

“As a result, Tesco not only offers carrier bags made of post-consumer recycled material, they have now gone one step further. By closing the material loop, Tesco carrier bags are now produced using their own plastic waste. An ideal situation for Tesco, Tesco customers and the environment,” said Bill Aldridge, UK sales manager at Papier-Mattier.


The new green-colored packaging is composed of half ryegrass and half recycled paper. The 100 percent recyclable containers have the same form and functionality as standard pulp egg boxes, but use 60 percent less water during production and generate 10 percent less CO2 in comparison.

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“We often take the humble egg box for granted as it reliably keeps your eggs intact until you’re ready to crack them open,” said Waitrose egg buyer Frances Westerman. “While we’ve found no better way for safely getting eggs to your kitchen table, we’re always looking at way we can use less packaging and more sustainable materials to ensure that we minimise our impact on the environment.”

Ryegrass grows quickly and is quickly replenished. It is unfertilised, untreated grass that is mown in a way that prevents sand and dust from getting mixed in. Research on Welsh ryegrass in eco-friendly packaging for fruits and vegetables has been conducted by Bangor University, Aberystwyth University, and five industrial partners.

Waitrose says it plans to extend the ryegrass packaging to other egg boxes in the Waitrose range, all of which are currently made from 100 percent recycled paper.

UK grocers at large are setting a high bar for waste reduction throughout their operations: Last year, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Sainsbury's led a consortium of UK packaging, retail and recycling organizations to launch a market trial aimed at recycling over a billion black plastic food trays per year; Sainsbury’s announced that its Cannock superstore would run solely on power generated from the supermarket’s own food waste; and London saw the opening of the UK’s first “social supermarket” — the first in a project aimed at reducing food waste and supporting low-income households — at which surplus food from retailers including Asda, Tesco and M&S) is now resold at highly discounted prices to food-insecure locals.

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