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Pret demands cheaper sustainable packaging solutions

Pret A Manger has raised concerns that sustainable packaging options are too expensive for foodservice operators.

Paula Chin, the chain’s packaging manager, suggested that “the commercials don’t stack up” for those firms looking to reduce plastic packaging. She said businesses have to make money and it “isn’t fair” to pass the additional costs of compostable packaging, for example, on to customers.

Chin raised the issue during a question and answer session at this week’s environment seminar, organised by the Foodservice Packaging Association.

It was one of a number of concerns raised as the industry deals with intense pressure to reduce its reliance on plastic and improve recycling rates.

“On the go recycling is failing,” said Peter Goodwin, director at Closed Loop Recycling Solutions, which runs the Simply Cups recycling scheme. Goodwin said change will happen “despite government” but viable commercial models need to be found.

Peter Maddox, director of government programmes at Wrap, called for on the go packaging to be integrated into a recycling strategy for England as part of the upcoming resources and waste strategy. He said some “fantastic stuff” has been achieved in relation to plastic packaging but “we have lost momentum”.

Figures presented by Nick Brown, head of sustainability at Coca Cola European Partners, suggested that 74% of plastic bottles are collected for recycling. However, 21% of the remaining 26% that are “lost” is from on the go rather than at home.

Reform of producer responsibility schemes was another hot topic. The current system “isn’t fair” and offers businesses “little incentive” to design out waste, said Libby Peake, senior policy advisor at Green Alliance.