Black plastic: removing the unrecyclable

In April 2017 WRAP announced that black plastic was not being recycled by local authorities and was instead being sent to landfill. The organisation states: “The majority of black plastic packaging is coloured using carbon black pigments which do not enable the pack to be sorted by the optical sorting systems being used widely in plastics recycling. As a result, black plastic packaging commonly ends up as residue and is disposed of in landfill or recycled into lower value materials where polymer sorting is not required. WRAP has worked in partnership with key players in the retail supply chain to improve the recyclability of black plastics and prevent these materials from going to landfill.”

To tackle this challenge, Quorn’s packaging strategy group met to formulate a plan to remove black plastic from its supply chain as quickly as possible. Since April 2018, black plastic has been phased out of the majority of Quorn packaging, including some of its bestselling products such as chilled Quorn Mince and Pieces. In June 2018, in-store packaging of the vast majority of the chilled range moved to white and opaque recyclable plastics and this change will replace 297 tonnes of black plastic with clear and opaque, recyclable alternatives, supporting the WRAP initiative against unsustainable packaging.

Staying sustainable: implementing initiatives

The brand offers a nutritious protein source which is highly sustainable, with products like Quorn Mince producing 90% fewer GHG emissions, 90% less land usage and 90% water usage than the beef mince equivalent. The brand is aiming to phase out the remainder of black plastics in its Deli range before the end of 2018 and is currently in late-stage discussions and testing with suppliers to ensure this process takes place smoothly and swiftly. As the first global meat alternative brand to be awarded the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Footprint, this initiative will also improve the brand’s sustainable credentials further.

“As a founding signatory of WRAP’s UK Plastic Pact, we are very excited to announce this positive change towards increased sustainability of our products” Kevin Brennan, CEO of Quorn Foods said. “Moving so quickly to remove black plastic is a significant challenge, but one that, as a sustainable company, we view as being of the utmost importance. We view this as the right thing to do, despite the six-figure cost.

Our customers will be able to continue enjoying Quorn as part of a balanced and healthy diet, knowing that we are committed to reducing all forms of food waste in our supply chain and to promoting and advancing sustainability without passing the cost onto consumers”.