Black plastic food trays banned

We just had to take a few moments out of our day to write a brief post about this snippet of good news. As the title suggests, the popular discount high street store Lidl has announced that it will no longer be selling any fruit and vegetable items in wasteful black plastic trays.

Why can’t black plastic be recycled?

Admittedly, this came as a surprise to us as we assumed that there was no difference between black, white, clear or coloured plastic. However, according to registered charity WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), most of the same kinds of black plastic containers are coloured using carbon black pigments which don’t enable the pack to be sorted by the automated optical sorting systems that are widely used in the recycling of plastic. Because of this, black plastic packaging typically ends up being carted off to landfill sites or is recycled into lower value materials where polymer sorting isn’t required.

The charity goes on to add that it now encourages manufacturers and retailers to only use black colourants that can be detected by sorting machines instead of carbon black pigments. Aside from this story being good for Lidl’s PR, it will surely encourage other big brand supermarket chains to follow suit, which can only be a good thing.

Lidl estimates that by ditching black plastic from their fruit and veg, the chain could save around 50 tonnes of plastic from going to landfill sites each year, meaning a significant reduction in plastic waste. So, if you’re buying things like mushrooms, asparagus, green beans or baby sweetcorn from Lidl, it won’t be in black plastic. They’ve also indicated that they’re planning to stop using it for other items including fish, meat and poultry.

Ryan McDonnell, Lidl’s commercial board director is quoted as saying:

“This significant move away from black plastic demonstrates our dedication to tackling this important topic.”

Why use non-recyclable black plastic in the first place?

It’s a great question and one that we here at Metro Waste don’t have a definitive answer for. We can only speculate that it may be because black plastic is more appealing on the eye for the end-consumer (you and I) when we cast our gaze over the goodies on the shelf. Shiny black plastic may be better at concealing scuffs or stains or it may just be because it looks “cooler”. If you know the reason, let us know in the comments below.

Are you passionate about plastic?

If you’re passionate about plastic recycling and want some other good news, we’ve also written about how crab shells and trees could lead to a substitute for plastic wrapping and how plastic eating bacteria could help reduce the mountain of plastic waste we produce every year.

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