• Plastic packaging and the food industry – a bad romance?

    • Have you ever wondered why your food has extensive packaging? You’re not alone as society is growing more aware of the impact food packaging has on the environment.

      BBC’s ‘Blue Planet’, the nature documentary, recently showed images of our polluted oceans and the sea life struggling to survive in it.

      David Attenborough, the show’s host, has urged the world to reduce its use of plastic before the problem becomes unmanageable. Ellen MacArthur is an experienced sailor who has made the alarming prediction that there will be more plastic than fish in our sea by 2050 after seeing the state of our oceans.

      In this article, we guide you through the problem with plastic and what companies are doing to lessen their contribution to the global plastic pollution.

      Why is plastic packaging a problem?

      Plastic is used in food packaging to extend a product’s shelf life and to safeguard customers. There is an extensive approval process for all plastic used in food packaging and this measure ensures all plastic on the market is safe.

      According to The Guardian, every minute a million plastic bottles are bought worldwide. This large-scale production of plastic results in 8m tonnes of plastic finding its way into our oceans every year. And the effects of this don’t just impact sea life – billions of people are drinking plastic contaminated water.

      Food manufacturers have been urged to minimise their plastic use while continuing to deliver products fit for consumption. But which food producers and suppliers are pledging to improve their packaging?

      Cranswick plc

      Cranswick is a leading UK food producer and supplier. The company aims to reduce plastic in their packaging by 50% by the year 2025 with the remaining plastic used being completely recyclable. In addition, Cranswick pledges to re-use all internal materials in a closed-loop system across their business and reduce the weight of plastic packaging.

      Their CEO, Adam Couch, stated that the changes to packaging centre around reducing the damage caused by plastic in our oceans and landfills. The company are working towards a sustainable future and they believe that the current state of plastic pollution is a global problem that must be resolved.

      Cranswick have revealed how they plan to reduce plastic use by 2025:

      • Test new initiatives to create positive consumer attitudes towards recycling food packaging
      • Create a new industry stakeholder group to ensure a workable closed-loop system is developed for recycling materials
      • Design packaging that can be easily recycled in household settings


      The ‘Plastic Pact’ is an incentive from WRAP to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Quorn, the vegetarian food producer, are one of 42 businesses which have already joined the pact.

      As of June 2018, the majority of Quorn’s chilled range will feature opaque or white packaging. This switch will eliminate 297 tonnes of non-recyclable black plastic that would have been sent to a landfill.

      Some vegetarians stop eating meat to reduce their impact on the environment however many of them may have been unaware of the damaging effects of black plastic used in meat substitute products. Now, for people aiming to reduce their individual carbon footprint, they can eat Quorn products with an even clearer conscience knowing the packaging used in chilled products are recyclable.


      At the start of this year, M&S withdrew a product named ‘cauliflower steak’ because of customer complaints.

      The complaints centred around the high pricing and extensive packaging of what some branded ‘a sliced cauliflower’.

      The public concern over the packaging suggests society is moving past the stereotype of ‘tree huggers’ as criticism of the product came from many different sources.

      The UK government

      Three years ago, Theresa May revealed government plans to eliminate plastic waste by 2042. The plan’s outline was that plastic food packaging, straws and carrier bags should be abolished in the next 24 years in order to significantly reduce plastic pollution.

      However, environmental groups have claimed the scheme lacks both detail and urgency considering the urgency and seriousness of the issue.

      Starting in October 2015, a 5p charge for plastic carrier bags was implemented for large retailers. The aim of the scheme was that the added charge would encourage consumers to use reusable plastic bags instead.

      The UK’s PM is set to task civil servants to reconsider the charges associated with producing and buying plastic. Let’s see if a greater sense of urgency can be encouraged.

      Are you looking to join the food manufacturing industry?

      Whether you have previous experience or are looking for a complete career change – b3 jobs can help you find your ideal career. If you are an employer searching for new talent you can trust us to find the best candidate for your company. We have been helping people just like you since 2000 and have since become one of the leading specialist UK food manufacturing recruitment agencies. Please contact b3 jobs on 01435 866000.

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