Packaging update: recyclable meat trays

Here’s our packaging technologist, Robyn, with an update on some changes that are on the way to your box. Read Robyn’s first blog post to find out more about her role at Riverford.

Hello packaging enthusiasts!

Following our move to beech nets and ditching the plastic wrapping on some popular veg, another packaging improvement is on its way. If you buy our meat, you may already have spotted the change in the last few weeks; we’re working on phasing out the non-recyclable black trays, and replacing them with recycled and recyclable clear PET.

Why are black trays a problem?
Many recyclers can’t detect the black plastic due to optical sorting systems being unable to see it. While work has been done to change this with the introduction of new pigments, we’ve decided to move away from black plastic altogether and have found a clear alternative. Our new meat trays are made from clear food-safe recycled PET, which can be recycled with rigid plastic pots, tubs and trays.

Please bear with us while we use up the last of our stock of black trays. We hope to have moved to the clear recyclable trays for almost all meat products over the next few weeks. However, we still have a larger stock of black meatball trays (these are a specific shape designed to protect the product), which we will be using up until later in the year. At that point, they too will swap to a clear recyclable and recycled PET alternative.

But why plastic in the first place?
I often get asked why we use plastic rather than a wax paper wrapping for our meat. The short answer is to make sure the meat has a good shelf life once it gets to your kitchen.

How to recycle your new meat tray

  • Remove all the film on top of the tray and the pad from underneath the meat. Please dispose of these in your general waste bin; the film is not currently recyclable (there aren’t any top film solutions that are recyclable yet, but we are always searching for alternatives)
  • Recycle with you kerbside recycling or at your local recycling centre

To find out more about our existing packaging and research with the University of Exeter, visit our packaging manifesto.

24 responses to “Packaging update: recyclable meat trays

  1. I often find it very hard to remove all the film from Riverford trays. It would be great if this could be slightly improved with the new ones. When I have been able to remove the film cleanly enough, I have been putting black trays into the recycling, as our area (Mid-Sussex) seems to have particularly good separation facilities (for example they can deal with plastic lined coffee cups).

    • Hi Jenny, thank you for your feedback re the lids. We will pass this on!
      That’s good news regarding your local recycling facilities; that’s quite something in regards to the coffee cups! If only we have one system nationwide, it would make life a lot easier for all.

  2. Rosemary Decker-Thomas

    I’m really grateful and impressed that you are working so hard at this. Well done!

  3. So pleased you’ve effected this change as we can’t recycle black plastic meat containers and now possible to recycle yours

  4. Carolyn Simpson

    Why not trial the wax paper? Reduce rather than recycle

    • Hi Carolyn, unfortunately we cannot use waxed paper for hygiene reasons and also because it would significantly shorten the shelf life once it gets to your kitchen.

  5. Our local Council says that all plastic except drinks bottles and shampoo bottles should be placed in our black bags for general refuse collection – even those plastics that are recyclable.

    • That is very frustrating. Are there any other recycling facilities in your area that you can bank them up and deliver to?

  6. like Lesley I find that our local council will only accept plastic bottles; even items like recyclable plastic yogurt pots are not taken if we put them in the recycling boxes.

  7. I’m happy to go with wax paper basically because I take what I need for a couple of days and the remaining goes straight in the freezer.
    Everyone that orders from riverford knows the meat is cut fresh for each delivery. I used to be a fully qualified butcher the lovely pink bloom you get from a freshly cut steak doesn’t make any diffence to the flavour.
    I can also remember when I was much younger when I went raspberry and strawberry picking there wasn’t a plastic punnet in site they where always small waxed lined or the large blue wax lined with a silver handl, a cardboard version of a supermarket basket just a lot smaller. Are the fruit punnet that we receive our fruits in recyclable?

    • Hi Cate, unfortunately another reason we cannot use waxy paper bags for meat is hygiene reasons, as there would be increased risk of leakages during packing and delivery.
      In regards to the punnets, they are recyclable, but annoyingly recycling varies from council to council, so if yours won’t take them, you can return them with your veg box for us to do so on the farm. This applies to all packaging.

  8. Could Riverford champion a universal country wide collection criteria? I too would be happy to have the meat in waxed paper – butchers always used to wrap in paper but now it’s sweat making plastic bags…. Love the fruit and veg cardboard pun nets – excellent for gardening and crafts!

  9. if you are using clear see through trays for meat why not use some other kind of material instead of plastic film top do we really need to see through the top and bottom just a thought

  10. I am also happy to receive my meat products in the wax paper, as my meat usually goes straight in the freezer, but can you tell me what PET is, please.

    I, like Cate Batsford also remember the card punnets used for strawberries and other fruits as well as the days when all fruit and veg wasn’t encased in plastic in the first place. Oh! for the good old days.

  11. Thank you Riverford for working so hard on this issue and keeping us updated.

  12. We stopped buying the meat due to the plastic so it’s good to see this is improving, although still plastic. Like others I would also like to see wax paper trialled. I’m currently step two of the sustainability 6 Rs when it comes to meat in plastic – Refuse! Also, is there any update on when mushrooms will come in something other than a substantial plastic tray? I understand they are easily damaged but it seems over the top for the little fungi 🙂

    • Hi Jane, smaller portions of mushrooms are in card punnets but at the moment we have to pack our larger portions in plastic – not ideal we know but our punnet supplier only makes the once size at the moment.
      We have some good news re our plastic usage coming in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for the update.

  13. Valerie Burnett

    Hooray well done and thanks for the change. You are one of the few organisations to respond to customer pressure and quickly and with good grace! So glad I can now recycle this packaging.

  14. Françoise Szigeti

    My suggestion is rather different. Our butcher in the UK and our cheese shop in Paris put their produce in a clear plastic continuous bag roll (cost about 13gbt for a pack of two rolls) which can then be vacuum sealed. I expect that you can easily find out more about this kind of packaging. I just googled and found the info. I assume that it is a PET product. This keeps the produce safe and easy to put in the freezer because it is not rigid. The plastic containers you use are way oversized for their contents and not flexible, making it difficult to “squeeze” into the freezer where space is at a premium. Please do look into this way of packaging. Of course, you will need to get a machine to vacuum seal (cost start at about 70gbt for a sealer), so that should not be a huge hurdle. For the customer, I then only need a pair of scissors to cut the sealed bag. Thanks for considering this.

  15. Bob Northover

    Why are some tomatoes in pulp trays and some in plastic? Surely they can all go in pulp trays. I realise it’s the larger weight items but just two pulp trays instead?

    • Hi Bob, at the moment our punnet supplier only makes the once of card punnet – we know this isn’t ideal.
      We have some big news on our future packaging plans coming in the next couple of weeks, so look out for this.

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