Sainsbury’s to vacuum pack beef mince saving 450t of plastic
Sainsbury’s has announced it is swapping traditional, plastic tray packaging for a new vacuum-packed alternative across its beef mince range, saving 450 tonnes of plastic annually.
The retailer claims a supermarket-first, saying the new packaging will result in a minimum 55% reduction in plastic per product. The change will be across all Sainsbury’s beef mince products, currently retailing from £1.99 for 500g. Customers will be able to purchase beef mince in the revamped packaging both in-store and online from today.
The beef mince products will be vacuum-packed for freshness by removing all oxygen which typically causes a product to eventually spoil. The new packaging will contain the same amount of beef mince, but is smaller in size, helping customers to use their freezer and fridge space more efficiently by taking up less space.
The move is the latest in a string of changes made by the retailer in a bid to halve its use of own-brand plastic packaging by 2025. Sainsbury’s was the first UK supermarket to remove plastic bags for loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items from all stores, as well as the first to remove all black plastic from chilled ready meals in 2019.
More recently, Sainsbury’s announced the removal of single-use plastic lids across its own-brand yoghurt, crème fraiche, sour cream, cream, cottage cheese, custard and dip pots, saving 71 million pieces of plastic per year. Whilst back in September, Sainsbury’s also made its own-brand coffee pod range fully recyclable.
Claire Hughes, director of product and innovation at Sainsbury’s, said: “We know our customers expect us to be reducing the use of plastic across our products are and we’re constantly looking for new ways to innovate to meet our Plan for Better plastic reduction targets. We strive to be bold in the changes we are making, which is why we’re pleased to be the first UK retailer to vacuum pack all our beef mince range without impacting the quantity or great quality of product that our customers expect. This is the latest in a long line of changes we have pioneered in the space working collaboratively with our suppliers, and customers can expect much more to come from Sainsbury’s.”
Flexible v rigid plastic
However, the move has been downplayed by some. Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of A Plastic Planet said: “There’s more to this big announcement on mince than meets the eye.
“While there will be a saving in the weight of plastic used, switching to flexible plastics over rigid ones is no more ‘green’ than changing from a petrol to a diesel vehicle.
“Flexible plastics are almost impossible to recycle, especially where they are food contaminated. The old, rigid plastic packaging would at least have gone into recycling, however limited the UK’s systems are. The new vacuum packs will instead be thrown into general waste and end up incineration.”
“The big brands really need to wean themselves off single-use materials altogether, offering produce in reusable packaging instead. Human beings have been eating mince much longer than they have relied on single-use plastic to package it.”