The invisible side of sustainable packaging in the bakery industry | Opinion

Bread in baskets of wholemeal bread in a store

Simon Devereux, who recently joined Bakers Basco as president, stresses the importance of creating a system in which reusable equipment thrives.

simon devereaux

Given that the recent 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh may not have made as many headlines as COP 26 in Glasgow last year, it is critical that we keep our focus on finding solutions every time. more sustainable for the way the food industry operates. .

Food packaging is a critical part of this challenge, as food producers and retailers find the right solutions that balance the amount of packaging needed and its capacity and ease of recycling to provide the functionality consumers demand while minimizing risk. generation of food waste.

Within the baking industry great strides have been made. The lightweight plastic bag or waxed paper wrapper that bread is sold in is now largely recyclable, although it is still mostly found in dedicated recycling points provided at larger retailers. Bread bags made from recycled material are being tested and initiatives are underway to eliminate millions of items of plastic packaging from other bakery products.

However, the primary packaging that the consumer sees tells only half the story. Much of the food supply chain relies on the use of cardboard boxes, shrink wrap, and ready-to-store packaging, accounting for a significant proportion of the tons of packaging used each year. While increasing amounts of this secondary packaging are being recycled, it is certainly not reusable and is contributing significantly to the sector’s carbon footprint.

A Warburtons White Baker's bloomer in recyclable packaging

The baking industry is different. Their use of secondary packaging is minimal and it’s all down to the humble bread basket. Although it is made of plastic, it can be reused hundreds of times over many years, and when it reaches the end of its useful life, it can be recycled to make the replacement basket. It is not just the basket that is important, but the way the bakery supply chain has evolved to maximize the impact of its use. In most cases, the packaging equipment at the end of the bakery lines has been set up to collate and load wrapped loaves of bread directly into baskets which are then stacked ready to load onto delivery vehicles.

The availability of a reusable and recyclable bread basket is only part of the story. The effective and efficient use of reusable equipment is only possible if a comprehensive system is in place to manage and track where the baskets are used, collected and reintroduced in the supply chain.

The use of the reusable and recyclable pearl basket is an important part of the sustainability story that the baking industry has achieved so far.

Fifteen years ago, the UK’s five largest plant bakers realized that the entire process could be managed more effectively by setting up an equipment management company whose original mission was to design, source and manage a basket of standard bread for the bakery industry, which allowed significant cost savings in terms of design, raw material procurement and production of both the basket and the dolly and the establishment of a management system to ensure that the equipment reused in the most efficient way possible. Bakers Basco was born and established as a joint venture of five of the UK’s largest bakeries: Allied Bakeries, Hovis, Fine Lady Bakeries, Frank Roberts & Sons and Warburtons, who account for much of the UK bakery market. .

However, the sustainability benefits of this approach are compromised by misuse and misplacement of these bread baskets, which can lead to them being disposed of in landfills or ending up in the hands of unscrupulous recyclers who will break up the plastic and will sell. Bakers Basco has developed an increasingly effective process of tracing baskets, confronting these perpetrators and, if necessary, taking legal action, but with each basket of bread that is removed from this circular economy system, that is when we have to create a new, undermining sustainability. credentials of our industry and the environment in general.

As you can see, the packaging that the consumer sees tells only half the story. Behind the scenes, from a logistical perspective, the use of the reusable and recyclable pearl basket is an important part of the sustainability story that the bakery industry has achieved thus far. Ways to improve the system are continually sought, but the focus on seeking unscrupulous and illegal use of baskets that compromises sustainability benefits will always be at the forefront of our efforts.

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