The pouch will initially be available with Uncle Ben’s ready-to-heat wholegrain rice, which is soon to be re-branded as Ben’s Original.
The mono-PP material, unveiled in December, is built on Amcor’s AmLite HeatFlex recyclable film and will be its first application for microwavable food and the first in a stand-up pouch format.
Learnings about how the material runs through Mars’ supply chain will inform a wider rollout in the year ahead.
The food manufacturer said the use of a high performing mono-PP material will allow it to retain the shape, shelf-life, functionality and high safety standards needed for the packaging of its brands.
It will also enable the pouches to be recycled, where collection and recycling infrastructure exists, Mars added.
At present, mono PP flexible plastics is not supported by at-home recycling collection in the UK. However, several major retailers have recently announced in-store flexible plastics collection trials.
Effective collection and sorting systems alongside availability of recycling infrastructure are critical elements in building a circular economy for all packaging types, Mars suggested. It is expected that by the end of 2021, UK-wide in-store recycling will be available for mono-PP flexible packaging, with in-home recycling available from 2023.
Mars’s Sustainable Packaging Plan includes a commitment to make its packaging 100 per cent recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.
Matt Cutts, innovation director at Mars Food, said the new material is a “huge step forward” for the company’s journey towards fully recyclable packaging.
“The work is not finished, and we hope this innovation will mean greater discussion surrounding the collection and recycling infrastructure that is needed alongside packaging development,” Cutts said.
Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at the Waste & Resources Action Programme, heralded the “breakthrough” in microwavable food pouch design, which means that once it is collected, it can be recycled into new items.
“And these collections are coming,” Bird said. “We are encouraged by the recent announcement by some supermarkets to collect all types of plastics bags and wrappers and feel sure that similar announcements are in the pipeline by other retailers.
“These supermarket collection points are a critical stepping stone towards these materials being collected directly from households in years to come.”