Trade body lifts lid on chip shop packaging challenges

THE president of the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) has told Packaging Scotland of his desire to work with the packaging industry to ensure fish and chip outlets can meet new single-use plastic legislation.

As of June 1, expanded polystyrene containers carrying food intended for immediate consumption were outlawed in Scotland as part of a crackdown on single-use plastics – with the rest of the UK set to follow suit at a later date.

Andrew Crook, who followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming president of the NFFF, said the industry supports the removal of plastic ‘where practical’, but warned that governments must ensure that the industry is ready. He added that the new regulations, alongside rising prices and supply chain issues, means the fish and chip industry is going through the ‘biggest crisis’ it has ever faced.

Andrew believes the solution will likely have to be biodegradable packaging, as traditional paper wrapping could lead to obesity problems and cost issues due to staff not having the same portion control as they do with boxes.

Currently, Andrew said members in Scotland have reported using corrugated paper boxes, likened to pizza boxes, to comply with legislation but he said this comes with its own problems as there is confusion as to whether such boxes can be recycled after coming into contact with food and grease.

“I actually use biodegradable packaging in my own shop (in England),” Andrew revealed. “The reason I use it isn’t for environmental reasons – there’s still some question marks over that – but, for quality; there’s less condensation in the boxes, and with the increase in deliveries due to the pandemic it travels better.

“It also doesn’t melt like polystyrene when in a heated cabinet waiting to be collected.”

However, he said that the solution comes at ‘five times the price’ of standard packaging and is also shipped from ‘halfway across the world’, which leads to a different environmental question.

Andrew also raised questions as to whether or not there is enough supply of biodegradable packaging to keep all of the UK’s fish and chip outlets in operation.

He hopes to meet with different packaging and recycling companies to understand their operations and see if they have a solution to the new regulation which fits the needs of the sector, warning that the general public also needs educated amidst a littering crisis as not all biodegradable packaging breaks down quickly.

Andrew believes there is an issue with outlets which aren’t aware of legislation or choose to ignore it, pointing towards the plastic bag charge which he said can often lead to disgruntled customers if they are charged in one outlet, but not the other. He thinks that such dissatisfaction can be avoided if they can properly communicate to the public why biodegradable packaging comes at a potentially increased cost, why it’s being used, and what benefits that will bring.

“I’ve spoken to packaging associations, but I’d like to go round different facilities and see what they do because I think we need to get that information out to the general public and we can help do that,” Andrew explained. “We talk to a lot of people in our business; the reason sustainable fishing messaging gets out there is because those pushing it are so engaged with us and have taken us onto vessels and talked us through how everything is caught, so we then better understand it and can pass it onto our customers as well.

“The more knowledge we get, the better, and I’d love to work with some companies.”

Andrew Crook can be contacted at