Wagamama to Replace up to 330 Tonnes of Virgin Plastics in Takeaway Packaging

31 August 2022 by Maya Israel
blog author

With the world continuously swamped under mountains of plastic waste, more companies are innovating and implementing solutions in a bid to mitigate the climate crisis and tackle increasing plastic pollution.

Wagamama will remove up to 330 tonnes of virgin plastics from the supply chain by launching a new cPET packaging solution for its takeaway food that will see the packaging of its most popular dish – the katsu curry – reduce its carbon footprint by 62 per cent.

The restaurant chain started to roll out its latest sustainability offering this week and will have reached all restaurants and delivery kitchens by October, replacing eight million delivery packaging items in the process.

The new packaging initiative, containing recyclable material, has been developed over the past four years following collaboration between leading plastic experts, UK waste collectors, suppliers and forward-thinking product designers.

Wagamama claims to be one of the first in the hospitality industry to use ‘cPET’ for the bases of its bowls, more commonly used for supermarket ready meals. cPET is a food-safe material made from 70 per cent recycled content and has excellent heat resistance.

The remaining 30 per cent of the packaging products will be plastics which are needed to maintain the structural integrity of the container. Each piece of packaging has been fitted accordingly to ensure the new bowls fit portion sizes with no excess material.

The containers will be a lighter creamy sand colour to ensure the bowls and lids are more easily detected by NIR (Near Infra Red) scanners in recycling plants. Wagamama has opted for an easily recyclable PP lid and is committed to working alongside project partners to reach a fully cPET solution within 18 months.

In addition, the restaurant chain is launching a bowl return scheme, Bowl Bank, which will encourage diners to return their packaging to their local restaurant, an initiative created in response to the varied practices of the UK waste streams.

Thomas Heier, Wagamama CEO, said: “Reducing our use of virgin plastics is a complicated mission – but one we have been dedicated to for four years. This has been driven by the belief that we needed do better for our guests, teams and the planet.

“Months of trial and error, conversations with leading experts and research into UK waste streams has resulted in a moment where we can finally say we’re proud of our packaging. Proving small choices make for big change and sustainable progress doesn’t happen overnight. This is an exciting and overdue step for us but only the beginning.”

 Simon Ellin, president of the UK Recycling Association and leading expert who advised Wagamama on the move to cPET said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see businesses like Wagamama take accountability for their waste and go to great lengths to research and understand the complex nature of the UK recycling landscape. There’s so much misinformation and false claims about where rubbish goes, you really need to take the time to fully understand the problem.

“Assessing their business needs, I’m confident cPET is the most sustainable option available to them at this time, and I'm pleased to see they have invested in this option. They will be leading consumer behaviour change with their ‘Bowl Bank’ initiative, and it would be brilliant to see more return initiatives like this from their peers.”

 Jo Barnard, creative director of design and innovation agency Morrama, said: “It was great to work with Wagamama as they were willing to take educated risks and ultimately allow their main sustainability objective to lead the project.

“We continuously balanced bettering guest and team experience with sustainability. We have reached a truly unique solution which reduces a massive amount of virgin plastic while still achieving the much loved ‘bowl to soul’ aesthetic wagamama is famous for.”

Maya Israel, Sustainable Business consultant at Acre, said:It's great to see a fast-paced restaurant chain like Wagamama analysing its supply chain, and implementing a change that will lead to the removal of 330 tonnes of virgin plastic and a carbon footprint reduction of 62 per cent.

“With a large number of dine-in restaurants offering a takeaway option that includes the use of plastic, the transition to cPET packaging would have a huge impact on the plastic pollution crisis we’re facing.”

The chain will also continue to promote plant-based eating in the fight against climate change.  As part of its ‘2021 Positive Action Plan’, Wagamama pledged to make half its menu plant-based by the end of the year, which it met three months early.

Coming from a background of interim recruitment specialising in HSEQ personnel, Maya has supported numerous stakeholders in large-scale renewable energy projects across the EMEA region. Working with a range of HSEQ professionals from director level to fieldwork, covering multiple topics such as environmental impact, to engineering & design – all things health and safety.

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