5 September 2001
Potato plates to mop up waste

By Tom Allen-Stevens

THERES a new and hungry market for your potato waste, growers and packers were told at the British Potato 2001 event on Tuesday (4 September).

Biodegradable plates and bowls made from potato starch are examples of an innovative range of products made from potato starch by Potatopak.

The Somerset-based company, that opened its first factory in June this year, currently imports all its starch, but is actively seeking a UK supply base.

“We can create value from low grade and waste potatoes, and thereby increase the demand for the crop,” said Potatopaks chief executive Toby Matthews.

The companys latest project has been to develop a biodegradable tray for packaging food, which has prompted interest from supermarkets.

New packaging taxes on plastics and polystyrene are nearly four times those for biodegradable materials, giving the trays a financial advantage as well.

“Sainsburys has said we want your products, so the opportunity for the potato grower is vast,” Mr Matthews claimed.

He calculates that 20%, or 1.2 million tonnes of the UK potato crop goes to waste each year, which would make enough starch for 2.61 billion trays.

“With current technology, it would require 3-4 million tonnes of potatoes to replace all polystyrene and PVC packaging in the UK.”

If left outside, the starch-based trays break down and disappear in a matter of 30 days. Polystyrene packaging is estimated to take 2000 years to biodegrade.

Nigel Jupe, of the British Potato Council, is keen to know whether growers and packers would be interested in supplying the packaging industry.

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