UK: Report highlights opportunities for red meat supply chain to reduce amount of packaging waste

Report highlights how meat packaging can be reduced

Report highlights how meat packaging can be reduced - Credit: PA

Opportunities for the red meat supply chain to reduce the amount of packaging waste going to landfill have been highlighted in a report published by levy payers’ organisations EBLEX and BPEX.

The meat sector accounts for more than 30,000 tonnes of waste per annum (excluding what the end consumer throws away) and, while this is thought to represent less than 0.5% of the total waste generated by the food, drinks and packaging industry, there is still scope to reduce it.

The feasibility study examined possible outlets for waste contaminated with meat residue, mostly in the form of plastic and cardboard packaging which is removed when primals are broken down into retail cuts. This type of waste presents a challenge for meat plants, most of whom are actively engaged in trying to recycle their waste, as recycling contaminated waste plastic is difficult.

In addition, the cost of cleaning the plastic often means that it is not cost-effective to prepare it for recycling.

The research identified a lack of facilities for recycling plastic in the UK, with much of the waste from the meat sector currently being exported to be used for energy recovery.

EBLEX supply chain development manager Christine Walsh said: “The UK does not have an extensive network of facilities for recycling plastic or recovering energy from waste, for example by using incinerators to generate electricity and heat. Where such facilities do exist, the technologies used generally lag behind those being employed on the continent. Consequently, waste from UK meat plants is often exported to be used for energy recovery.

“This feasibility study is the first step in identifying opportunities to enhance the facilities available for utilising plastic waste within the UK. However, further investigation is needed to determine the most cost-effective way of reducing the amount of meat packaging going to landfill.”

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The full report can be downloaded from the Research and Development section of or the environment hub of