Sainsbury's is the first user of a new range of biodegradable trays manufactured in Malaysia from palm tree waste.

The trays are produced after palm leaves and empty palm fruit bunches not needed for food, cosmetics and personal care item manufacture are collected from plantations and converted into packs using a special food contact-approved biodegradable bonding agent and, subsequently, a pressure forming process. Currently being manufactured at a pilot plant, they are the result of a joint venture between Malvern-based biodegradable packaging specialist Biopac (UK) and Maybrit, which specialises in developing commercial relationships between the UK and Malaysia. A “third party” has now commissioned a full-scale production plant expected to have an 40-50m tray annual capacity.

Sainsbury’s began using the fibre-coloured biodegradable, compostable trays for its organic tomatoes two months ago, and, Biopac’s technical director Mark Brigden says, the company is hoping it will undertake a wider rollout for other organic goods in coming months. He adds: “The trays, which currently cost a little more than comparable polymer packs, but whose price we expect to fall on large-scale manufacture, are being sealed with a biodegradable UCB NatureFlex flowwrap and feature biodegradable labels in the Sainsbury’s application.

“We believe there are substantial market opportunities and are talking to several other potential customers.”