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Home » Brand

Suma launches new recyclable packaging

Submitted by on March 16, 2010 – 12:37 pm6 Comments


We’re happy to tell you this packaging can be recycled

How many times have you read “We’re sorry but this packaging cannot be recycled” on the back of food packaging in shops? It makes you ask questions like, “Can’t you use something else then?” or even “So what are you doing about it then?”

At last, a film which is recyclable and contains recycled content.

Suma has spent the last two years researching, developing and testing a new plastic film which is :

  • safe to use on food products
  • durable enough not to split
  • light enough to keep transport costs low
  • transparent so you can see the contents of each bag
  • easily recyclable, comprising recycled content

The film is made from rPET (recycled PET). This plastic is also used to make pop and water bottles and most local authorities have schemes running to collect and recycle it. PET is usually a thick rigid plastic, most favoured for the packaging of liquids. PET can also be made into fibres to form a strong fabric, polyester, which is used in clothing, furnishings etc. Now for the first time, as far as we are aware, someone has managed to make a thin, flexible film from this versatile material, which we’re using for food.

Have you heard it crinkle yet?

Suma’s new prepacks are a lot noisier than those packed in conventional films. The bags crinkle when picked up – you can tell you’ve picked something up which is different to what you’ve handled before. We also like to joke that the noisy packs should reduce shop lifting.  The packs have been available since mid February, with the whole range eventually being  converted to new film by 3rd April 2010.

Carbon footprints and practicalities

To start with Suma considered all possibilities from paper, to plastic, from bags and tubes to boxes. Anyone who has considered the carbon footprint of a product or action will be aware how complex the issues actually are. We assumed that using paper or cellulose packaging would be less environmentally damaging than plastic. However it would seem that, taking into account the energy required to produce the material, chemicals, raw materials and water used in production, PET turns out to be a far better option. PET is actually a waste material from the oil industry and if unused would be landfilled. Better still if you can have recycled PET content, which, as recycling of PET increases, can be in ever greater proportions.

We’ve had an interesting time trying to make this new film run through conventional packing machines, finding inks to print onto it, sealing it, keeping costs down, talking to our customers about design, checking it will recycle once used, and checking it’s fit for use with foods.  We hope you’ll think the end result was worthwhile – and we expect other companies to soon follow suit.

Recycling Issues

You can contact your local council to find out what PET recycling facilities there are in your area or look online.  Most councils already collect PET plastic pop and water bottles. Some councils may find it difficult to deal with a PET film because it is likely to blow about – therefore we suggest that you roll up empty rPET bags and poke them into a PET bottle for easy recycling. Some councils collect PET and then landfill it anyway. Sadly PET recycling plants are few and far between. With your help, Suma can firstly generate more demand for recycled PET and also put pressure on local councils to collect and recycle more PET.

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  • Recoup are a not for profit member based plastics recycling organisation who have been working to develop UK plastics recycling for 20 years. The SUMA PET film will not be recycled in the current UK systems, and only serve to increase the contamination issues faced by PET bottle recyclers. Making the film product from recycled PET is very worthwhile and encouraged, but trying to claim it could be recycled through UK household recycling systems by stuffing it into a PET bottle will not work and should not be used as a product marketing tool.

  • bob says:

    rPET film CAN be recycled. Local authorities have just not caught up with it yet. It’s exacty the same plastic as PET bottles. But recycling site workers have not been trained to accept PET packaging as well as bottles. They think its a different plastic.
    So our job is to get councils to tell their workers about PET packaging.
    Suma is the first but won’t be the last to use PET film bags.

  • Susan Thomas says:

    Hi, -Could we hear some more from Stuart at Recoup as to why he says the packaging film will not be collected and recycled by Councils.

    Suma is right in saying more packaging is PET now including fruit from M&S, even some chocolate box inners have been spotted.
    One problem is ensuring they are clean- but that also applies to the milk bottles which are collected.
    More relevant is the fact that apparently similar packages are made from very different materials and this can spoil everything.

    We could do with a stipulation that the recycling number is both big and bold – no squinting or magnifying needed,maybe the base of anything made from PET could have a certain texture or tint…the more distinctive the better.
    Then we could really tackle the problem of landfill/resource use.

  • Jon Knight says:

    During the development of this packaging solution we sent a roll of the film to a recycling plant to test the recyclability. It passed with flying colours!
    We are convinced that the only barrier is one of recycling authorities not being accustomed to the idea that PET comes in shapes other than bottle!
    This debate is incredibly healthy – and if it gets local authorities to think again, then so much the better.
    We believe that someone needed to take a step and we took it ourselves!

  • […] At the beginning of April Suma launched its groundbreaking new packaging film – which contains recycled PET plastic and is also recyclable.   Suma has been able to package LOADS of different food stuffs in this material from dried beans, rice and sugar to dried fruit, nuts and yoghurt peanuts.  These products are creating a demand for recycled plastic as well as being recycleable.  Now its easier to do the green thing. […]

  • Apologies for the delay in coming back, but I agree it is worth discussing.

    I was very careful not to say that PET film is not recyclable, because as with most plastics when it can be recovered separately ie from some commercial and industrial activities – it is. I also agree that a roll of film sent direct to an appropriate reprocessor would be recycled successfully.

    But there is a very different issue with collecting this material through existing household waste and recycling systems, separating it, and getting it to a PET recycler.

    The key here is that whilst it could be collected in closed lid unit – eg a wheeled bin, the infrastructure is not geared up to efficently handle and separate films, let alone specific PET film fractions. It is also very important to acknowledge that apparently similar packages are made from very different materials, so training site workers to identify and separate PET film is impossible – they don’t even have time to look for ID logos, and I would say commercially unlikely that sorting equipment could be used in the short to medium term. The best way to get an idea of this is to visit this type of ‘MRF’ sorting facility. I can help with this if needed.

    Recoup submitted substantial information to the DEFRA packaging consultation, and also have other documents supporting the above which are endorsed by key UK plastic recyclers. It is now accepted by WRAP that local authorities should not collect film within household kerbside and bring schemes, which has led to consideration of recovering film through existing retailer carrier bag collections. If this develops, the film will be kept separate, but the likelihood of the PET fraction being separated and sent to a PET bottle reprocessor is unclear.

    Recoup (and I) are very approachable, and I am happy to discuss this in more detail. We are independent and whilst it would be great to be able to recycle all plasics packaging, we also have a very good understanding of the current and planned systems for plastic collection, sorting and reprocessing. That’s not to say that opportunities can’t develop and change, and we are commonly involved in activities to push the boundaries of plastics recycling in a sustainable way.

    Best regards,

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