Huhtamaki has developed a new fibre-based tray, Fresh, for UK supermarket chain Waitrose and Partners’ Italian ready meal range.

The trays are produced as an alternative sustainable solution to replace the plastic packaging of its ready meal trays.

The packaging firm has sourced the fibre material used for the base of the trays from Swedish forest company Södra. The trays are packed at Saladworks.

Waitrose and Partners UK packaging development manager Nikki Grainge said: “We have made a commitment to move out of black plastic by the end of 2019.

“We have been testing the new trays since May 2018 and have received very positive feedback from our customers. Now, with the current launch on Italian range moving to the new tray, we’ll be able to move nearly nine million meals out of black plastic.”

According to the company, the trays are suitable for use with both microwave and regular ovens, and can be recycled or used for home composting.

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Huhtamaki project manager Steve Davey said: “The project started already in 2016 with the aim to find alternative food packaging for trays made from black plastic, most often crystallised polyethylene terephthalate (CPET).

“The reason to avoid this material is not only its fossil origin but also because it is problematic to recycle due to the detection systems used in end-of-life material separation.”

“We’ll be able to move nearly nine million meals out of black plastic.”

The project obtained initial funding from the European Union’s (EU) Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) programme for research and innovation.

The funding was used to build the core team that wanted to spearhead the new concept in the UK.

The EU and the Bio-Based Industries Consortium introduced the €3.7bn BBI JU programme.