Giving a product a green makeover

Making changes takes time and sometimes you will make mistakes. It is only when you step outside your comfort zone that you will begin to change, grow and transform.

Westaway Sausages is making chilled pork sausages with fresh cuts of British Pork. My family has been doing this for over 120 years.

Over the last 5 years we have looked carefully at how we pack our sausages with a view to adding value to our customers and increasing our green credentials.

It is our belief that if we can change then it makes it easier for our customers to change.

For example

For many years we packed our sausages into black trays made with a blend of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and Polypropylene (PP). However as black plastics cannot be detected by optical sorting equipment at recovery facilities, this means they are likely to be burnt at energy recovery plants, sent to landfill, or exported. All these options are clearly not good for the environment. Energy recovery plants do differ, but the majority that burn plastic give off more emissions than coal burning plants.

We therefore changed to clear trays: they were made from Polypropylene (PP), this plastic is recycled but not as widely as Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET).

Where our customers still insist on using plastic we are changing to PET, or if available recycled PET (r-PET).

However, we are phasing this out and will withdraw this option later this year.

Thinking outside the box

Having won UK packaging innovation of the year for our certified compostable retail packs we were keen to find a sustainable solution for our food service packs. This coincided with an opportunity with a national food service company that had similar green aspirations to ours.

We already are using  uncoated, unbleached card trays made from sustainably sourced wood pulp to pack small retail trays. By doubling the wall thickness of the tray, we were able to make the trays rigid enough to take 3 strings of 6 sausages in a handy 1.2kg pack. Double packing these trays in a brown recycled outer made a handy and very compact pack of 36 sausages. To ensure the pack was fully compostable we used a brown paper tape to seal the box and used the same unique stretch film that we use on our award winning retail packs. This is the first certified compostable (home and industrial) stretch film in the world. Westaways are one of the first companies to use this film. In a compost heap the film is quickly broken down by the enzymes secreted by microbes, leaving no harmful residues or microplastics.

Another benefit

Having designed the tray to fit the sausages, we gained space. A plastic tray needs a flange around the top to enable the tray to be sealed with a top lidding film. Also plastic trays are made by heating plastic and drawing the sheet down onto a form. This means that all plastic trays are shaped and do not have upright walls. The space saving that our card tray provides means we can put an extra 200kg on a pallet (or 3,000 qty  sausages).

Not only does this give a 22% better use of pallet space and save on haulage. It means professional caterers can fit our sausages more easily into their chilled storage.

They can also home compost every piece of our packaging.

So we have a win for everyone and we are helping reduce our dependence on plastic.