Regional CEO UK & Ireland, Faerch UK Ltd
In a circular economy, food packaging is made from recycled content and it is recycled back into new food packaging after use. While being circular, food packaging must not compromise on food safety or any other functional requirement.
The great potential for a European circular plastics economy is widely recognised. Substituting virgin raw material with post-consumer plastics will decrease CO2 emissions massively, while preserving valuable materials in circulation.
As a society, we need to commit to moving faster towards a circular economy for food packaging and as a company with more than 50 years of experience in the sector, we believe that Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the fastest and most viable way for this to happen. The transition can be further accelerated if it is supported by legislation.
Across Europe, we see a growing commercial interest in recycling PET food packaging into food grade material. But we need to speed up and increase our ambitions. We cannot expect the transition towards a circular economy to be driven by consumer demand alone. We need action at many levels and progressive legislation.
We believe that a common European tax on food packaging, that does not contain a minimum percentage of post-consumer recycled content, could positively stimulate the industry and infrastructure. The aim should be to create incentives for making better mono-material waste streams.
Choosing the right materials
In rigid food packaging, circularity is not a distant vision. However, it requires the right material choice. For food safety reasons, the use of recycled content in food packaging is largely limited to packaging made from PET. By contrast, widely applied materials like Polypropylene (PP) and Polystyrene (PS) are imperatively made exclusively from virgin material.
Beside its recyclability, the level of recycled content in packaging is a good proxy for the sustainability of a packaging product. However, numbers communicated by packaging suppliers are frequently not comparable, confusing and, too often, overstating.
We cannot expect the transition towards a circular economy to be driven by consumer demand alone. We need action at many levels and progressive legislation.
As a company, we promote the application of the strictest calculation method, using post-consumer recycled content as a measure. Material that has not been in the hands of a consumer but rather results from waste during a production process, so-called pre-consumer material, should not be included in the calculation.
In an industry-first effort, Faerch launched an initiative to provide customers with third-party audited statements on the percentage level of post-consumer recycled content (PCR) for each specific product. Certificates, audited by PwC, provide full transparency to customers and allow accurate and evidence-based communication towards consumers, legislators and other stakeholders.
With the increasing demand for sustainable packaging solutions and the legislative support in the form of tax deductions for recycled content, audited statements confirming the level of recycled content in packaging products will become industry standard.
Our certificates, with PCR percentages approved by PwC, are available for the entire CPET range in the UK with levels of post-consumer recycled content between 53% and 79%. The remaining PET products with even higher levels and other countries being added one by one.
In parallel, our portfolio of sustainable materials and product offerings continues to grow at pace. The range of circular products has recently been extended with PET pots for the dairy industry allowing hot sterilisation, and numerous new circular products are constantly added.
Faerch’s unique tray-to-tray recycling capacity is massively expanding and new sites are planned. We are partnering closely with customers supporting them on their transition towards circular packaging solutions to meet the ambitious sustainability goals.