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A recent report by consumer group Which has found that of the UK’s best-selling branded groceries, only a third had packaging that was fully recyclable for households, with cheese being among the worst offenders.
Which said 34% of cheese packaging was not easily recyclable, with snack packs of brands like Cathedral City and Babybel that use plastic net bags not only difficult to recycle, but also posing a big problem if they get caught up in recycling machines. Even products that were recyclable, such as Dairylea and Laughing Cow triangles, were missing important recycling information on their labels.
In a separate survey, Which found that sustainability is an important issue for consumers, with eight in 10 people saying the recyclability of grocery packaging was important to them. “Consumers are crying out for brands that take sustainability seriously and products that are easy to recycle,” said Natalie Hitchins, Which head of home products and services.
Eradicating hard-to-recycle plastic packaging is an area where proactive independents can get a leg up on big brands and supermarket chains. In fact, Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses has developed a recyclable polyethylene packaging for its hard, soft and blue cheeses, that it says makes it the first cheesemaker in the industry to launch a fully recyclable cheeseboard.
Traditionally, cheese packaging is made up of several different polymers, which makes it difficult to recycle. Having spent years working closely with industry experts, including Ian Schofield, who is known for his plastics work with Iceland, Butlers spent the last 12 months creating its polyethylene packaging that can be recycled as one unit without compromising the shelf-life of the cheese.
According to Schofield, creating sustainable cheese packaging is notoriously difficult due to different cheeses having complex packaging needs, from managing taste and quality, maturity and interaction with light, heat and oxygen. But he said: “Sustainable cheese packaging doesn’t have to be – and absolutely shouldn’t be – a goal for five years’ time, or for the 2022 plastic tax levy.”
Matthew Hall, owner of Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, said: “Using our collective expertise to come up with innovative solutions is what drives us and means we can continue to make premium-quality, award-winning British farmhouse cheeses. Transforming our packaging now, for the future, is a big step forward.”
To discover more about the fine food industry’s fight against single-use plastics, grab your free copy of A Sustainable Future here.