Auckland factory producing recyclable meat trays

An Auckland packaging company is working to remove the confusion around recycling plastic, one meat tray at a time.

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The Pact factory recycled around 5000 tonnes of easy-to-recycle PET plastic a year. Source: Seven Sharp

Pact Packaging's Kiwi-designed meat trays - made from Polyethylene Terephthalate, or PET - can be recycled.

“PET's an easy to recycle material so it can go through the wash plants back into a product, whether it be a tray or something else, and then be recycled again and again,” Pact Packaging's Keith Stinton said.

PET trays can be differentiated from non-recyclable trays through its grooves, which are designed to trap liquid, and the number 1.

The recycling cycle starts at home with a quick wash and a few taps to remove all the liquid.

The trays are then cleaned and shredded into chips at Pact’s Wellington plant, Stinton said.

“We still have to substitute that with other material - whether it be virgin material or imported recycled material from Australia - and the reason is that we could have more material back from the recycling facilities.” 

The chips are then melted and turned into sheets, which gets made back into meat trays.

Pact Packaging's recyclable plastic meat trays. Source: Seven Sharp

The Pact factory in Auckland runs 24 hours a day, five days a week.

The factory recycles around 5000 tonnes of PET a year, and it’s expected to increase with the plan to phase out most non-recyclable plastics by 2025.

He said the product is one that “can be used in terms of circular economy”.

“In New Zealand, trays can go back to the recycling facilities, back to our wash plant and then back into products so it creates a full circle of life cycle for that material.

“There will be other trays that come through and other products that get developed over time, but I think PET is probably where we need to be in terms of recycling material.

“We could do better. With Government investment and council changes, I'm sure we'll see more material coming back that we can recycle into meat trays.”