The EcoExpert range from Modiform is championing the use of 100% recycled and fully recyclable trays and pots for retailers and customers.

Modiform is a company born from recycling. It has had a recycling plant for more than 30 years, taking back used plastic from customers, processing and turning it into more products. Used materials from society are also reused in a similar way. The firm has been helping the environment by providing closed-loop systems for plastic. Environmental consciousness is in Modiform’s DNA.

Around four years ago, Modiform felt a movement around the world towards additional packaging systems that could easily be recycled by retailers and consumers. The company also noticed a problem in the way some plastic types were being handled after use. It thought the future of horticultural packaging could be different.

On a mission to gain knowledge about recycling systems, materials and different production techniques, it experimented with many types of plastic for a potential new generation of products including PLA and bioplastics. However, Modiform found these materials did not work well in "end of life" situations. Retailers agreed, rejecting these materials too.

Modiform looked at other industries to see where they were heading on retail packaging. The produce sector was starting to use more moulded paper for transport and retail. Modiform chief executive officer Jeroen Ravensbergen says: "Straight away we saw the potential for this material in horticulture. We set up the Eco­Expert brand and opened our third division to bring an additional product range to market."

The company tested the moulded paper material with growers and retailers, resulting in the realisation that it could work well through the horticultural supply chain. "Disposal and the cost of disposal of the standard plastic tray is left to the retailer," says Eco­Expert and retail division manager Shaun Herdsman. "Recyclers used to send them to China for disposal. Export of waste material from the EU to China stopped on 1 January 2018. The cost of disposal has increased and become more difficult. EcoExpert offers an easy alternative."

According to Modiform, the EcoExpert tray works well through the horticultural supply chain and has proven to be very successful. Herdsman adds: "The tray can be treated as cardboard, so it saves the retailer time when sorting out plastic and cardboard. It just gets put with the cardboard waste and recycled back to make paper again."

Modiform also has a range of EcoExpert pots. The idea is that plants are grown in reusable plastic trays or pots and transplanted into Eco­Expert pots on despatch, making presentation of the plant look great. It also allows the consumer to put the used pot into the cardboard recycling bin or, if planted into the ground, it will degrade within a year.

Plastic is a great material and has many uses in society. The problem is getting plastic back and recycling it. Although all the plastic Modiform uses is recyclable after use, products will often not get recycled.

Herdsman says: "Some plastics are easier to recycle at kerbside collections than others. For instance, the transparent green PET we supply for B&Q has the highest chance of being recycled compared to darker colours of plastic. Transport trays are predominantly made from Black PS — the hardest to recycle. Tesco recently announced rejection of black PS in their stores. We understand this and we are using our knowledge of materials, production techniques, recycling and the supply chain to offer the right product in the right material for different situations."

What is EcoExpert?

EcoExpert is a range of horticultural products made using 100% recycled card/paper. The products are produced in a food-safe environment and once used can be recycled with all other cardboard waste, industrially composted or will degrade in the natural environment.

  • 100% recycled.
  • 100% recyclable through current kerbside recycling.
  • 100% compostable.
  • Water-resistant.
  • Strong.
  • Retail- and consumer-friendly.

Using EcoExpert in Horticulture

Plastic is a hot topic. Media coverage has led governments and retailers in many European countries to consider and commit to getting the right types of plastics or alternatives.

Horticulture is seen by the public as a "green" industry, yet we use plastic for everything. By introducing EcoExpert, Modiform is trying to make the industry green again, in both look and feel as well as helping the environment.

The incredible new innovation is gaining a lot of attention from growers, traders, retailers, consumers and environmental pressure groups. Only launched in January 2018, Modiform’s EcoExpert has already had a debut in Tesco.

This small input of "plastic-free plants" has saved one tonne of plastic into society. Tesco could have a potential saving of 200 tonnes of plastic in 2019.

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