FOOD PACKAGING: Is removing plastics from the shelves really achievable?

Breathable biopolymer bags and films - an alternative to plastics

‘HOW can we remove plastics?’ is a question undoubtedly being asked by the major food processors and retailers following recent shifts in public opinion.

Earlier this month Iceland become the first major retailer to commit to eliminate plastic packaging for all its own-brand products – just a week after PM Theresa May pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years.

So is this achievable for the industry as a whole? After all, plastics are widely used as the go-to food packaging material of choice for a good reason… and Iceland sells mainly frozen food, where the situation is perhaps less challenging.

“Many food processors will be wondering how they can reduce or eliminate plastic from their packaging,” said Simon Balderson, Sirane MD. “In some cases, this will be impossible in the short term. Plastics have ideal properties of strength, moisture and oxygen-barrier, transparency, water resistance and processibility for many packaging applications. Complex film structures have been developed to extend shelf life and ensure food safety and huge investments made to produce these materials.

“At this stage, it may seem like there are few viable alternatives to plastic for key packaging applications including vacuum packaging, skin packaging, MAP, cook-in packaging and many more. However, there are alternatives…. and there are plastics used within the food chain which can be fairly easily replaced and eliminated.

“With fresh produce, for example, biopolymers could be the answer. Sirane offers a breathable and 100% compostable biopolymer material called Sira-Flex Resolve which is perfect for this application… so alternatives are there.

“We’re currently looking at ways to achieve high-barrier compostable films using biopolymers and other materials, which would allow their use for other foods, so we’re already working on developing what could be the answers.

“And of course, there’s companies like ours who have the capability to develop solutions that don’t currently exist, so my message is we’re here to help. We’re already working on potential solutions, and we thrive on a challenge.”

If the use of plastics is to be significantly reduced within the UK food chain, it will undoubtedly mean some fundamental changes; this could range from consumers needing to get used to ‘less transparent and more functional packaging’ to a return to in-store butchers counters, where the meat is packed in store.

Simon said: “In some cases the replacement of retail packaging with shelf-appeal with more functional packaging is an option. If the consumer wants to get rid of plastic they may have to get used to the fact that the food will not be as visible. You cannot see through paper, and many biopolymers – one of the main alternative options to plastic - are cloudy at best. If the consumers will accept this, in some cases food can be packaged with function rather than appearance in mind.

“However, a return to in-store butchers and green-grocers, where retailers process the meat, fresh produce etc themselves, might be something that is discussed. It’s not that long ago that these facilities were removed…. we may find they’re coming back.”

Research and development may provide some of the answers here.

Simon said: “Iceland’s MD Richard Walker said that there ‘really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment’ as it is ‘technologically and practically possible to create less environmentally harmful alternatives’ – on this, I think he may be partly correct.

“In Iceland’s case, everything’s perhaps a little more straightforward, as replacing plastic in frozen food and for fresh produce is indeed an achievable goal. For the fresh meat and poultry industry, for example, this is much more difficult. But he’s right that technologies are out there which we can explore in order to make less environmentally-harmful packaging solutions. Answers can be found.”

Of course, the shift may come elsewhere. Many plastics used in food packaging are recyclable – but only if there’s an accessible recycling stream available.

“If nothing else,” added Simon, “we’re likely to see better recycling streams and more investment there, and the public better informed on what can be recycled.”

Sirane already offers compostable versions of most of our absorbent pads, and we’re already working on developing versions of the few that aren’t that are either compostable or recyclable as per of the paper recycling stream – or both.

Iceland has said all current plastic packaging would be replaced with paper and pulp trays and paper bags, which would be recyclable through domestic waste collections or in-store recycling facilities – all replaced by 2023 at the latest.

Simon concluded: “If you’re sat there scratching your head, wondering just how to go about reducing the amount of plastic used in your packaging, then give Sirane a call. We’re ready and willing to help…. and have plenty of ideas already.”

For more information on Sirane food’s packaging solutions, call Jeremy Haydn-Davies on +44 1952 230055 or email

PACKAGING-INNOVATIONS 2018: Sirane’s food packaging solutions will be cooking up a storm

Sirane will be cooking up a storm at Packaging Innovations 2018

SIRANE will be cooking up a storm at the NEC as we present our popular oven and microwave-ready food packaging solutions at this year’s Packaging Innovations show.

From steam-cooking bags for the oven or microwave or BBQ bags to nylon roasting bags, multi-compartment bags to stand-up bags, Sirane has a varied range of options.

Jeremy Haydn-Davies, sales director, said: “Cook-in packaging is popular with both the retailers and the consumers, and Sirane has flexible solutions which will allow you to make use of the technology on offer and make it fit without your own supply chain.

“Whether you’re looking for processors to pack or pack in store, over the counter bags or even bags individually-wrapped for use in meal kits, we have numerous options. Recent additions include steam-cooking bags in a stand-up format, ideal for retail presentation, and steam-cooking bags with multiple compartments, allowing food to be kept separate.

“We’ve also got our flavoured cooking bags – oven/BBQ bags where flavoured wood chip sachets allow the food to be gently smoked and flavoured during the cooking process.”  

We’ll also be focusing on absorbency and absorbent food packaging; Sirane has a range of absorbent pads for all types of products, including meat, poultry, seafood and fish. Pads available include anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, compostable and ovenable.

Jeremy Haydn-Davies added: “Absorbency is, and always will be, a core part of our business and our expertise – and we’ll be giving it some of our focus at the NEC. We have a wide range of absorbent products available, and the flexibility to make the product with the absorbency you actually need in the size that you actually need it to fit with your packaging.

“And don’t forget, Sirane is a packaging development company, so if you’re interested in finding a solution to a particular problem in your supply chain, and you think we might be able to help, this could be a good opportunity to find out more about Sirane.

“At Sirane we thrive on a challenge, and we’re always looking for problems to solve. We’ve brought a number of products to market over the last few years that began in this way, including our odour-absorbent pads for vac-packed meat and cushioned fruit pads.”

Packaging Innovations takes place at the NEC, Birmingham, from February 28-March 1, 2018. Sirane’s stand can be found at E11 – right next to the Eco-Pack Theatre.

For more information on any Sirane food packaging solution, or to make an appointment to meet in Birmingham, email or call 01952 230055.

  • Read our guide to absorbency & absorbent products

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  • Read our Bags of Ideas brochure - cooking bag solutions for oven, microwave, BBQ and more

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  • Oven/BBQ cooking bags - Sira-Cook Supreme

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  • Absorbent meat pads - Dri-Fresh

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  • Absorbent pads for fresh fruit - Dri-Fresh Fresh-Hold

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  • Oven/microwave steam-cooking bags - Sira-Cook Self-Seal

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  • Dividers for better food presentation - Sira-Form non-ovenable boards

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  • Absorbent pads for wet-cheeses - Dri-Fresh Fresh-Hold

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  • Deli-bags for keeping food fresh - Sira-Flex Deli-Bags

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  • Multi-compartment microwave steam-cooking bags - Sira-Cook Smart-Release

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  • Nylon oven-roasting bags and films - Sira-Cook Siralon

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  • Absorbent fish/seafood crate liners - Dri-Fresh Sea-Fresh SP

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  • Absorbent oven-grill liners - Dri-Fresh Fat-Traps

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  • Thinking-Cooking - Sirane's own retail range

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  • Read our full food packaging catalogue online

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    Sirane's divisions - food packaging, medical, horticultural and industrial

    Sirane Ltd. Stafford Park 6, Telford, Shropshire, TF3 3AT. Telephone +44 (0)1952 230055