British supermarket chain Waitrose has partnered with a Scottish biotechnology company to explore the potential for eco food packaging made from langoustine shells.
The upmarket chain is joining forces with CuanTec to develop a new film for food packaging made out of the waste shells. Waitrose hopes the new packaging could be used as an alternative to conventional plastic film on some of its fish products in 12-18 months’ time, raising the prospect that the supermarket could soon sell fresh prawns packed in langoustine packaging.
The partnership builds on Waitrose’s existing credentials around sustainability amid growing consumer concern about single-use plastics and unnecessary waste: the company has banned disposable coffee cups and, in 2016, introduced pasta boxes that were partly made from salvaged food waste.
And the retailer already uses vine leaves, produced as a by-product of the tomato growing process, to make punnets.
Karen Graley, Waitrose & Partners packaging manager, said: “While we are still at an experimental stage, the potential for this new packaging material is incredibly exciting. Conventional plastic films can’t currently be recycled, reused or composted – so finding an alternative which doesn’t go into landfill would be very significant in helping us reach our target of ensuring that all own-label packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2023.”
CuanTec CEO Dr Cait Murray-Green added: “For us this technology represents the perfect virtuous circle. As well as protecting food on sale to consumers, it gives value to what would have been a waste product and takes single-use plastic out of the food system, meaning that less waste goes to landfill.”
Retailers are under constant pressure from consumers to minimise the amount of unnecessary food packaging in their stores, and high-end chains like Waitrose – where consumers can expect to pay a premium on the so-called ‘Big Four’, or discounters like Aldi and Lidl – shoulder a greater share of the burden.
Small measures – like Iceland’s decision to pack its bananas in paper bands, rather than plastic bags – are often seen as ‘quick fixes’.
Marks & Spencer previously reduced its use of paper stickers by laser printing barcodes directly onto avocados.
Waitrose is now “actively working” with CuanTec to test the packaging on some of its food in the hope of bringing it to market.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019