An update on the black plastic tray issue

black plastic food traysLast year PRM reported on the difficulties the food industry faces recycling black plastic food trays. There’s evidence that even state of the art sorting systems are unable to detect the black plastic and that each year as many as 1.3 billion of these troublesome trays are not being recycled.

PRM had hoped that with increased awareness combined with negative press, we would have seen a shift away from the use of black plastic packaging. However, there’s hope on the horizon: Aldi have recently announced that they are beginning the process of phasing out black plastic food trays.

A healthy goal

Aldi claim that this move will save approximately 265 tonnes of plastic a year, helping them move towards a goal of ensuring all its packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The food giant also aims to reduce packaging by 50% before 2025 and scrap single use plastic bags by the end of 2018.

The black plastic food trays have already been removed from food products such as piccolo tomatoes, baby sweetcorn and purple sprouting broccoli and replaced with clear plastic trays instead. Aldi’s fresh pasta pots will be replaced with 95% recycled material in a further move to help them towards their sustainability goals.

Clear path ahead

Due to the colour, black plastic is difficult to identify by the sorting machines at recycling facilities. It is therefore often diverted to landfill, or burned for energy instead. PRM have been puzzling over why supermarkets have continued to use this type of packaging, despite the universally negative impact. With clear plastic a very viable alternative, perhaps the decision was down to shelf appeal?

Struggling with black plastic recycling?

Aldi’s confident move will hopefully increase pressure on other supermarket chains to follow suit, resulting in black plastic food trays becoming a thing of the past. If you would like more information about how PRM can help your business with commercial recycling and waste management, contact us today.

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