FPA members have reported a flurry of claims for packaging that is marketed as the answer to the UK’s recycling issues.  Whilst the FPA supports new technology and innovation, it is urging members and foodservice operators to be vigilant in ensuring that all claims made for packaging are supported by independent proof that they are what they claim to be.

Executive Director Martin Kersh says: “The words that are most concerning are ‘100% xxxx free’ and claims such as ‘the first plastic free cup’, ‘the first plastic free coated board’ and ‘the best ever green packaging’.  Stating packaging is free of any ingredient really does mean just that – the presence of a trace is still a trace and being virtually 100% falls short of 100%.  It is good to see such a lot of development work, but we must all be sure we never mislead customers or the public”.

This topic will be debated alongside others at the FPA Annual Environment Seminar at Stationers’ Hall, St. Paul’s, London on Wednesday 22 January 2020.

The FPA advises:

1) Whenever an operator is presented with packaging making any form of claim they must ask for evidence the claim is valid.  This should be in the form of certification for, for example, claims of compostability / home compostability.  Where an international certification doesn’t exist then third-party peer reviewed evidence is needed.  This should cover testing in lab/real life conditions.

2) Biodegradable claims:  operators should ask how does the item biodegrade, under what conditions and over what time period.  Will the item simply degrade into small animal bite-size pieces or does it degrade into a mush which animal life can’t eat.  Oxo-biodegradable is not acceptable, and the EU seeks it to be banned.

3) Operators should not accept claims that ’this material is… plastic free / only made from material x’’ – it’s the finished pack which needs to fulfil the claim.  This is important as items claimed not to be in the material may be present in the finished pack in the form of, for example, adhesives to stick the pack together.  Claims are also made for materials having a lower carbon footprint than other packaging.  That may be true of the material but may not be true of the finished pack.  Carbon is expended in the factory when converting the material to packaging as well as transporting the material to the factory and from there to the wholesaler.

4) Claims for being sourced from ‘sustainable forests’ must be accompanied by the correct certification such as FSC or PEFC.  All paper-based packaging must meet EU Timber Regulations requiring a chain of custody covering the whole product cycle, starting with the the tree from which the paper is derived.

5) All packaging used for food must meet food material contact regulations.  Certification must be made available.  If offered packaging which is very cheap relative to regular prices, operators should question why? Have corners been cut such as not testing the finished pack?  Unfortunately, not all packaging is checked at the border when entering the UK.

6) Please do not accept claims of ’this pack is greener than other packs’ or ’produced from sustainable sources’ or ‘environmentally friendly packaging’.  Such claims are too vague and need certified / proven detail to underpin such credentials.

7) Claims of ‘plastic free’ are increasingly being made for so called aqueous (water based) coatings being used as alternatives to current polyethylene (PE) linings.  However, with some applications plastic is present in order to form the packaging, especially with regard to sealing items containing liquids.  When presented with packaging of this type ask for evidence of it being plastic free.

8) Never, ever accept a claim of bioplastics being plastic free.  They are polymers which is what plastic is.  The difference is that they are not derived from fossil-based sources, but this does not make them plastic free.

9) Packaging solutions derived from other materials such as bamboo or sugar cane frequently make claims to be plastic free.  Please ensure the packaging is accompanied by evidence to confirm the fibres have not been bound together by using plastics or plastic derivatives.

10) All members of the FPA operate to a strict Code of Practice regarding the making of claims.  In the event of a claim being made which may fall foul of the above, the FPA operates a procedure to ensure the claim is withdrawn.


Ends                                                                                                                 14 January 2020

Issued on behalf of the Foodservice Packaging Association by Leapfrog PR. Editorial contact is felicity@leapfrogpr.com or call 01242 282000.