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George Weston Foods Starts Eliminating Plastic Tags On Bread Bags

Starting today, George Weston Foods (GWF) will replace plastic bread bag tags with fully recyclable cardboard ones on Ploughmans Bakery and Bürgen bread.

The new tags will be used to seal all Ploughmans and Bürgen loaves throughout New Zealand, seven days a week.

The rollout follows a series of successful trials, which have given George Weston Foods confidence that the new tags are effective in sealing in freshness and taste, and that a complete transition from plastic can be undertaken without compromising quality. This is the first step in the company’s plastic tag elimination programme, which will eliminate 18 million plastic tags from the waste stream in the first year and ultimately remove 75 million. This will represent over 26,250 kgs of plastic that will no longer litter footpaths, roads, carparks and beaches or leach into waterways from landfill.

GWF is the first New Zealand bread maker to embark on such an ambitious programme, which is part of its commitment to environmentally responsible packaging under a four-year sustainability programme to reduce and eliminate waste across its supply chain. The programme involves a staged rollout of multiple initiatives and multiple partnerships across all its brands, including Tip Top, Burgen, Ploughmans, Golden Crumpets and Big Ben.

The company will progressively ensure all packaging across these brands is 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Because GWF’s bread are already recyclable under the nationwide Soft Plastics Recycling Scheme, once the cardboard bread tags are added to Burgen and Ploughmans bread, all parts of the packaging will be fully recyclable. While the tags are biodegradable, GWF will encourage consumers to recycle the new cardboard bread tags in kerbside recycling bins.

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“New Zealand consumers are concerned about reducing plastic waste, and GWF is responding to the challenge,” says Mark Bosomworth, General Manager Baking Division, George Weston Foods (NZ) Limited. “Removing plastic tags is not our only goal, but it’s a good first step, a visible sign of our intent and a reminder to us to continuously seek out sustainable packaging innovations that will further reduce waste.”

A foundation principle of GWF’s sustainability programme is that waste reduction in packaging materials will not be at the expense of increased food waste, and bread tags are essential to maintaining freshness of the bread. Because of the way people carry, store and reseal bread, the cardboard tags had to meet stringent criteria to keep bread safe. They had to be able to keep air out, withstand freezing, moisture and humidity, handle multiple re-seals and protect the bread during transport and carrying,

“The new sustainable bread tags promise no compromise on freshness and taste. Customers can expect to be provided with the same GWF quality that millions of New Zealanders enjoy freshly baked every day and have trusted since the 1950s,” said Mr Bosomworth.

GWF’s environmental initiatives span water, energy and waste, and the company has committed to the following packaging targets:

  • 100% of all packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2025 or earlier
  • 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled by 2025
  • 30% average recycled content to be included across all packaging by 2025
  • Problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging will be phased out through design, innovation or introduction of sustainable alternatives.

You can read more about GWF’s sustainability programme on:

Note to editors:
Soft plastic bags are used as packaging to maintain bread freshness and reduce food waste. Bread currently represents around 9% of all domestic food waste, and there is currently no alternative available packaging material that works as effectively. However, reducing waste from soft plastic bags is also part of GWF’s sustainability programme, and the company is working with multiple partners to improve soft plastic recycling and ultimately, to replace plastic with other material that keeps bread fresh equally effectively, as soon as it becomes commercially available.

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