Waitrose launches home-compostable ready meal trays

Materials World magazine
1 Jul 2019

New home-compostable ready meal trays have hit the shelves in Waitrose stores in a bid to reduce black plastic. Idha Valeur reports.

A recyclable and compostable wood-fibre based tray, called Fresh, has been adopted for Waitrose’s Italian ready meal range in the UK.

The trays are a collaborative project between European companies – material is provided by Swedish forest company, Södra, which sources it from sustainable Nordic forests where for every tree cut down, three new ones will be planted. They are manufactured by Huhtamakia, a Finnish company, and packaged by Saladworks in the UK. The trays are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% over their lifetime, compared with fossil-based equivalents.

Waitrose started testing the trays last May as part of its 2019 pledge to improve sustainability by tackling its plastic use. ‘We have made a commitment to move out of black plastic by the end of 2019,’ Waitrose & Partners Packaging Development Manager, Nikki Grainge, said.

As well as being compostable at home, the Fresh trays can be recycled with paper as long as they have been rinsed after use and are free of food matter, according to the retailer’s Partner and Corporate Communications Manager, Hannah Chance.

Questions have arisen over the wood-fibre’s performance, and Chance was eager to point out its ability to keep food fresh and safe. She added that, ‘The packaging has been tested so it is safe to cook the product in both [ovens and microwaves]. Once heated, the packaging is also cool to touch after cooking.’

Green groceries

As the drive to improve sustainability and reduce plastics is increasing, the packaging and retail industry is working towards finding better material options. Waitrose is determined to meet its pledge with the Fresh trays and is also trialling a refill zone where customers can refill their own containers and glass jars, for products ranging from pasta to beer.

The initiative adds to ongoing measures, such as replacing 600,000 plastic straws with paper ones, stocking reusable tampon applicators, offering more produce without packaging and swapping out plastic-stemmed cotton buds for paper ones.

Waitrose has several ambitions when it comes to reducing plastic, like engaging in conversation with customers about what plastic packaging to remove next without reducing shelf life, decreasing quality or creating more food waste. ‘We are determined to make all our own-brand packaging widely recycled, reusable or home compostable. We will have identified solutions for all our packaging by 2020 and will meet our target by 2023,’ Chance told Materials World.