Five key considerations for sustainable packaging in 2021

Thursday, 29 April 2021

During the Covid-19 pandemic, single-use food packaging made a comeback with a surge in demand for food delivery, as well as concerns over hygiene and safety. From takeaway boxes and cups, to cutlery and plastic bags, sustainability was pushed down the list of global concerns as the industry prioritised feeding the nation while keeping consumers and employees safe.

Now, more than ever, sustainability is once again king.

So, what does the future of packaging look like? Here are five key considerations for sustainable packaging in 2021.

1. Plastic Cutlery Ban

Globally, humans use over 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of that sits with single-use items. The UK government has outlined a ban of all plastic cutlery due to come into force this year, which will certainly go some way to helping this global issue.

At Foodbuy, we’re ahead of the curve and are already working closely with our suppliers to replace plastic cutlery with wooden options. We are looking to adopt this trend before the ban takes effect so that we can ensure we have a robust supply chain and meet our customers’ demands in advance.

2. Coffee Cup Recycling Schemes

Did you know, 2.5 billion coffee cups are wasted every year in the UK.

Coffee cup collection and recycling services are one of the solutions available to tackle this.

The Deposit and Return Scheme will be coming into effect for Scotland in 2022. The scheme will apply to all single-use drink containers and would see customers pay more for drinks in the shops. Customers will then be able to claim the money back if they return their drinks containers to be recycled.

At Foodbuy, we’ve partnered with the UK’s only paper cup collection and recycling scheme, Simply Waste Solutions. The scheme collects, shreds and recycles our paper cups into new products like pens, pencils and notebooks. Not only does this reduce disposal costs, but also the amount of waste sent to landfill or incineration.

3. Eco-friendly Schemes

To help consumers enjoy takeaway food and drink without leaving a plastic footprint, some companies have set up eco-friendly schemes:

  • CupClub replaces disposable cups with reusable ones using a tracking delivery and collection system. The cups are designed to be reused 132 times and then recycled.
  • Caulibox is a digital reusable lunchbox scheme that rewards sustainable behaviours. Members of Caulibox can order their food in partnering food-to-go outlets in a reusable lunchbox. After use, they can drop it off at drop-off points to be washed, sterilised and reused.
  • Eco to Go, in collaboration with FSG, offers cups made from rice husk and can be reused hundreds of times. At the end of life, it will break down in industrial compost in just 90 days.

4. Black Plastic

Black plastic, often used for items like microwave meal trays, is one of the most problematic forms of plastic. As black packaging cannot be detected by recycling sorters, it means they will go straight to the landfill.

An alternative colour plastic could tackle this problem. The trays themselves are made from a plastic known as CPET – Crystalline Polyethylene Terephthalate. CPET trays are easy to recycle as the material is easily detectable at recycling plants across the UK.

5. Packaging with Purpose

Every year millions of plastics end up in the ocean and in landfills. Packaging with Purpose is a new initiative that aims to tackle this issue.

  • Prevented Ocean Plastic - Lidl launched the supermarket-first packaging using ocean bound plastic. The initiative will prevent over 60 tonnes of plastic from entering the ocean per year.
  • 'Plastics for change' - The Body Shop now source Fair Trade-certified recycled plastic through a partnership with ‘Plastics for Change

With plastic legislation due to come into force later this year, there is a profound focus for businesses to move away from single use plastics and introduce more sustainable packaging.

Here’s a look at the plastic ban timeline for the UK:


At Foodbuy, our approach has always been to reduce, reuse and recycle single-use plastics across our food and drink supply chains. If this isn’t possible, we review how we can source alternative products that meet the requirement.

If you need help sourcing more recyclable packaging, please get in touch here.