Packaging waste opportunities identified

More than 30,000 tonnes (t) of packaging waste from the red meat industry goes to landfill sites every year, according to a report published by Eblex and Bpex.

The report identified opportunities for the red meat supply chain to reduce the amount of packaging going to landfill, which is thought to represent under 0.5% of the total waste generated by the food and drinks sector.

A study looked at the ways the meat industry was contributing to the problem and revealed that waste contaminated with meat residue, such as plastic and cardboard removed when primals are broken down, was an issue.

“This type of waste presents a challenge for meat plants, most of whom are actively engaged in trying to recycle their waste, as recycling contaminated waste plastic is difficult,” Eblex said. Additionally, it said the cost of cleaning contaminated plastic meant it was often not cost-effective to prepare it for recycling.

Eblex supply chain development manager Christine Walsh said: “The UK does not have an extensive network of facilities for recycling plastic or recovering energy from waste – for example by using incinerators to generate electricity and heat. Where such facilities do exist, the technologies used generally lag behind those being employed on the Continent. Consequently, waste from UK meat plants is often exported to be used for energy recovery.

“This feasibility study is the first step in identifying opportunities to enhance the facilities available for utilising plastic waste within the UK. However, further investigation is needed to determine the most cost-effective way of reducing the amount of meat packaging going to landfill.”