Nowadays, we are all trying to do our bit to help the planet. But while you might think you are being environmentally-conscious by bringing a bag for life to the supermarket, or choosing products with less plastic packaging, you could still be inadvertently contributing to the production of plastic waste.

According to industrial packaging firm Bridge Johnson, many consumers simply don’t realise what goes on behind the scenes of the food and drink supply chain.

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“As the last link in the supply chain, transit packaging isn’t properly focused on from a sustainability perspective,” explains Joel McKechnie, Client Solutions Lead at Bridge Johnson.

“But just because it isn’t in the public eye as much, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an impact. Pallet wrap, a staple of warehouse packing for fast-moving consumer goods, is by its very nature is a single-use plastic. An average distribution centre will use enough pallet wrap in a year to stretch from John O’Groats to Lands End, and that’s just one centre. Our innovations can reduce that plastic by up to 50%.

“You will get a lot of companies who are improving their shelf packaging, removing the plastic from their presentation packaging and swapping it for cardboard…but then still using large quantities of pallet wrap. And they simply don’t need to do that anymore.”

With more than 15 years of experience in transit packaging, Bridge Johnson were well placed to create three major innovative solutions to the problem of plastic waste.

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“All our energies have been going into the ‘three R’s’: reusing, reducing and recycling.

“Reusing isn’t an option with traditional pallet wrap. But what we have created is Zero Wrap, our reusable pallet jackets. They are just as stable as pallet wrap, being secured with various buckles and fasteners, but crucially customers can keep using them for years at a time. They can be taken off the pallet and reused again and again, rather than having to pull that roll of pallet wrap closer to Lands End.

“When it comes to ‘reducing’, we have managed to create a higher-performance ‘Surge Film’ which is much thinner -for those using pallet wrap- than standard film. This automatically generates up to 50% less plastic, dramatically reducing an organisation’s plastic use without them having to do much differently.

“In terms of the ‘recycled’, all our pallet wrap is recyclable and it doesn’t need to go to landfill. We are also incorporating recycled materials, with our Eco Stretch brand containing 70% recycled content. These environmental credentials don’t make it any less effective, though, as provides a performance equivalent to standard films.”

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McKechnie acknowledges that it has been a difficult process to create products that offer these environmental credentials without compromising on quality. But with recent advances in technology, Bridge Johnson are now in a position to lead the way in sustainable packaging.

“We’ve been bringing options to the market which are fundamentally more sustainable, and remarkably easy to implement, as well as bringing a considerable cost saving.

“Companies see the benefit for their spending, their sustainability goals, and even reduced damages to their products during transit. Some companies will accept pallet collapses as part of their supply chain, but in innovating these products we are resolving these issues.

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“The initial outlay for the pallet jackets might be several thousand pounds, but that is the only purchase you need to make for three years, so it quickly pays itself off. With our Surge Film, too, you are saving up to a quarter on your spend, so it really ticks all of the boxes.”

And if there were concerns about the logistical challenge of changing to a more sustainable packaging model, Bridge Johnson can lay them to rest.

“Businesses are very keen to embrace this technology, but manufacturers often perceive it is going to be a more difficult transition than it is. Yet we can turn things around in the space of six weeks, including a trial and an implementation of the products.

“The UK plastic packaging tax, which comes into force in April 2022, means that even companies hoping to brush this issue under the carpet will be forced to deal with it in less than twelve months. And with the end of the year usually proving to be a very busy time for food and drink producers, we would urge businesses to get in touch with us now.

“It really isn’t as difficult as you might think to make a major reduction in the use of single-use plastic in your supply chain. We have been doing this for a long time and we know how to do it in an effortless way. We commend those producers who have been working to improve their sustainability credentials, and we have all come a long way, but there is still more than we can do.

“Everyone, in their heart of hearts, wants to make a difference and play their part for our planet. We are helping them to do that.”

For more information, visit www.bridgejohnson.com

This article appeared in The Herald COP26 report on the sustainable food sector in Scotland