Scottish firm looks to slam lid on food waste

Ken with his Scottish EDGE award

A Scottish packaging business is on a mission to tackle food waste after winning a sustainability award and linking up with manufacturers around Europe.

ReCover Packaging, based in Glasgow, was founded during the pandemic by labelling and packaging industry stalwart Ken Adams. The firm has been developing technology for sustainable reclosable film for the lids of food containers.

Previously, the recommendation was for lidding film to be removed from food trays prior to recycling. The ReCover solution is a PET laminate with the mono-layers bonded by adhesive. The adhesive remains on the film, which is peeled away from the tray.

ReCover said its technology allows lidding film to be recycled with household collections and eliminates the requirement for customers to re-pack food in cling film, foil, or plastic bags.

The innovation was recently rewarded with a Sustainable Packaging News award in the recyclable category. ReCover also secured £80,000 of funding after triumphing at the Scottish EDGE Awards – a competition for high growth potential businesses.

Ken Adams told Packaging Scotland that his aim is for the technology to become the leading film for food trays in the UK and across Europe.

“Food waste is a huge issue,” he said. “Zero Waste Scotland had a terrifying statistic that one kilo of food waste being sent to landfill generates the same CO2 emissions as 25,000 500ml plastic bottles.

“Food waste reduction makes a massive difference, particularly now during the cost of living crisis. We need to make sure that everything that we manufacture is bought by consumers, and once bought it’s then used and eaten. Packaging is absolutely vital to ensuring that happens.”

ReCover currently operates from a unit in Govan, Glasgow, and is working with manufacturers around Europe. Ken hopes the technology will be on supermarket shelves in the near future, providing a packaging solution for a wide range of different food types.

“For the very first time, you can get a single layer, high barrier packing base that is easy to open by the consumer, securely reclosed without (additional packaging like) cling film, and then once it’s finished, can be put into recycling,” Ken explained. “It cuts down on plastic use, it cuts down plastic being sent to landfill, increases plastic going to recycling and, most importantly, reduces the amount of food being wasted.”

Ken said feedback on the technology has been ‘nothing short of phenomenal’, with industry specialists impressed by consistency of the closing and simplicity of the operation.

He believes the packaging sector, as a whole, has been getting an unjustified hard time in recent years in the face of ambitious environmental aspirations, highlighting that the infrastructure around the UK has ‘historically been pretty poor for recycling’.

“We’re here to help consumers in how they can process waste, but they can only do that with the resources that are available to them,” he added. “It’s important that the country as a whole has a joined-up approach towards packaging waste. The packaging industry has a huge part to play in it. We are the experts in this part of the industry, being able to work with the various authorities to bring that forward to get a solution for the whole society.”

Ken is clearly thrilled at the progress of ReCover Packaging in such a short space of time. He admits to being ‘absolutely blown away’ by winning a Scottish EDGE Award last summer, describing the experience as ‘quite humbling’, especially as he’d been told that businesses are rarely successful on their first attempt in the funding competition.

“That was really great encouragement that we’ve actually got something concrete here,” he added. “Since then, we’ve gone on to finalise the design and to bring it into production footing.

“Trying to start a business at any time is difficult. At the minute we’re fighting on multiple fronts. It’s not just Covid; we’ve got the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis as well. However, we’re pitching our business at sustainability, at supporting consumers, and reducing food waste. We believe that we are right at the heart of working with the cost of living crisis and the environmental crisis.

“We’re providing a solution that will make a difference to people’s everyday lives.”