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Investments in sustainable options to plastic packaging will grow, as Scotland joins the EU’s commitment to fight plastic waste across the food and drink industry.

Plastic bottles

According to the Marine Conservation Society, 70% of the litter found in the UK is plastic. Concern globally, over the negative impact plastic waste has on our environment, is leading to increased investments in finding sustainable alternatives for plastic in the food and drink sector. 

Initiatives like expanding the 5p plastic bag charge in supermarkets, or introducing a tax on single-use plastic items like food packaging or takeaway boxes, are just a few of the solutions being considered by the government. Supermarket chain, Iceland, recently announced that it is to become the first major retailer to commit to eliminating plastic packaging for all its own-brand products within the next 5 years. 

So, what can Scottish food and drink manufacturers and retailers do to contribute to the goal of reducing plastic waste? What are the business opportunities of following a green path? 

With the EU pledging to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030, and Zero Waste Scotland estimating that Scots throw away 60,000 plastic bottles every single day, growth will be seen in the innovative ways companies re-package food and drink products.

Plastic-free aisles and restaurants 

Packaging-free stores and plastic free aisles in supermarkets are for many the way forward. The fruit and vegetable sector is one area in particular that's in the spotlight. For example, according to the Cucumber Growers Association, 220,000 tonnes of cucumber were sold in the UK in 2016, using up 490 tonnes of plastic wrapping. 

The public too it seems are increasingly beginning to think about the packaging of product and its effect on the environment. A recent poll by customer research company, Populus, found 91% of shoppers supported the idea of a plastic-free aisle, while 81% of those polled were concerned about the amount of plastic packaging thrown away in the UK. 

Restaurants are also showing a growing commitment to reducing plastic waste. Peardrop, a pop-up restaurant that popped-up in December 2017, sold itself as London’s first plastic-free café, and brought food out to customers from their zero food waste kitchen.

Innovation wins the day

Currently the UK uses 35 million plastic bottles each day, and less than half of it is recycled. Beverage manufacturers and retail groups are currently exploring the introduction of deposit return machines for plastic bottles in Scotland. 

Deposit-return machines are successfully being used in 35 countries, with Scandinavia leading the way. Norway recycles 96% of its plastic bottles by using this scheme.  

The idea is that consumers pay a small deposit when buying plastic bottles and get it back when they return empties. Returned bottles can then be melted down and recycled as reusable plastic bottles.  

It's innovative ideas like this that are going to make the difference.

Growth opportunities in packaging 

Scotland aims to recycle 70% of all plastic waste by 2025. Hopefully, this will mean the plastic waste and bottles found across the Scottish coastline will become a thing of the past.

To contribute to the goal, food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and consumers, are all being challenged to make impactful choices and changes for a better and sustainable future for all of us. 

Scotland’s food and drink businesses can be the change we want to see, the change the customer wants and the change the environment needs. 

Take the next step with us

If you want to understand about reducing waste, our innovation connectors are here to help. Make Innovation Happen is a free service, that offers one-to-one advice on innovation support to the Scottish food and drink industry. 

Are you looking for support to become more innovative? Are you working on something new or different that will add value to your business? 

Whether it involves product development, your processes or employees, Make Innovation Happen can help you explore your ideas and develop them all the way through to market. 

Contact our innovation connectors today