It is just a bag

Westaway Sausages Plastic Free

Most managers that I know have a “to do” list.

On my list there are certain items that I do not know how to progress. To my mind there is nothing wrong with this if you keep working the problem.

Some radical thinking

Did we really need a bag? We tried various alternatives in production, but nothing worked as well as our 18-micron blue PE bag. We did a run of boxes designed to prevent risk of contamination; they had pleated double flaps – which met our technical requirements. But our customers liked to take the bag out of the box because it stored better in their freezer. They did not like our bag-less boxes.

In June 2019, we packed off some sausages using some certified compostable carrier bags from our local Co-op, I wanted to see what happened to these bags after prolonged frozen storage. In June 2020, we got them out and found the bag was perfect with no loss of strength. Maybe this material was a potential alternative.

The issues

Was this bag sustainable, production wanted blue bags to prevent risk of foreign bodies, was it suitable for food contact, was there any risk of migration, could it be printed with food safe inks, was it certified as compostable (EN13432), was the manufacture BRC accredited? We needed a slightly bigger bag than the Co-op carrier, who could make these bags ideally in Europe? Then it had to be commercial, and we needed to do a pilot run before bulk. We could not order 6 pallets of bags to prove a concept. What on bag message should we include for customers about recycling / disposal? We completed a lot of research and loads of trials; I am sure several suppliers got tired of our requests. However, we were not the only company on this journey and the Co-op was a huge inspiration. This report  from the Co-op gave us confidence.

It is a long read but the report shows just what the issues are, not just from a manufacture point of view but vitally from a local authority waste management viewpoint. Who would be the winners, and would there be any losers?

Where are we now

There is light at the end of the tunnel, we believe that we will be using new certified compostable bags from February 2022.  Professional Caterers using our frozen boxes of sausages can recycle the cardboard box and paper sealing tape and use the bag as a food waste caddy or bin liner.

Do you struggle with food waste caddy liners / bags in your kitchen, are they slightly too small and do they not stay in place? Well Westaway bags are the perfect size.

The benefits

It benefits our customers; it encourages them to use their food waste collection service because they will find our using our bags as caddy liners is cleaner and more convenient. It cuts their use of plastic.

It benefits Westaway Sausages; more and more of our customers not just in retail but also in foodservice and wholesale are looking to support brands that have similar values to their own. It will cost us more to use these bags, but we know it will help our brand.

It benefits local authorities; it helps reduce plastic contamination and helps increase food waste collection rates and reduce the amount of food waste ending up in landfill.

Executive summary

A bag is not just a bag.