A UK manufacturer of convenience foods, Greencore, has joined forces with the Co-op and Sainsbury’s over a ‘test and learn’ trials of an all-fibre plastic-free recyclable sandwich skillet in stores across the UK. The packaging was developed in conjunction with ProAmpac over a period of 18 months, and is the first of its type in the world.

The skillet will have a plastic-free window and be made entirely from paper-based material. Crucially, due to the precise level of moisture resistance the skillet provides, it will see products have the exact same shelf life as if they were they packaged in a traditional skillet.

Data shows that consumers currently find it challenging to separate the plastic film from the packaging of a typical sandwich skillet, meaning that recycling rates are nowhere near as high as they should be. The new skillet’s all-paper construction will make the process much easier for consumers.

“Consumers are increasingly aware not just of the importance of their own health but also of the impact their food has on the health of the planet. Developing a fully recyclable sandwich skillet is one of the key ways we can reduce waste and help our customers do their bit to protect the environment. This is not a problem we can solve alone, though. The complexities of the challenges we face require collective action, inside and outside our industry, and Greencore is pleased to have such supportive customers who share our enthusiasm for making great food for all, that’s accessible, healthy and sustainable,” said Andy Wright, Head of Sustainability at Greencore.

Subject to successful trials, which commence in September 2021, and the proposition meeting all parties’ performance criteria, roll-out of the new packaging will begin later in the year. In time, Greencore expects to make these new packaging techniques available to the wider UK market.

Development of the fully-recyclable skillet sees Greencore deliver on one of the key commitments outlined in its 2020 Sustainability Report. The Sustainability Report also contains a range of pledges across the areas of sourcing, manufacturing, and community engagement. Further commitments include:

  • All surplus product will be donated to local communities by 2022
  • A deforestation-free supply chain by 2025
  • All raw materials will be sustainably sourced by 2030
  • Product development will be equally split between animal protein versus plant-rich alternatives by 2030.

It is estimated that some 600 million pre-packed sandwiches are consumed in the UK every year, or just over 1,100 every minute. Should the fully-recyclable skillet ultimately be adopted as industry best practice, the potential for significant reductions in plastic usage and in improved recycling rates is immense.