New recyclable trays to create 20 jobs in Lurgan
A Co Armagh-based packing company is to create 20 jobs in a "groundbreaking" new project to produce recyclable ready meal trays.
The posts will be in a new plant at Huhtamaki's Lurgan site which will make the world's first home compostable oven and microwave safe fibre-based trays in the UK for companies including supermarket Waitrose.
Positions including cell co-ordinators, production operatives, and maintenance technicians make up the Finnish-owned company's £7m investment, with funding support by the BBI JU Horizon 2020 program.
The production facility will "revolutionise" the ready meal market and play a key role in Huhtamaki's sustainability commitment to produce alternatives to plastic.
Richard Smith, general manager of Huhtamaki Lurgan, said: "This is one of the most exciting phases in the life of Huhtamaki in Lurgan so far, and we want to expand our committed team to prepare for the next stage of that journey.
"Our new Huhtamaki Fresh tray does away with the need for black plastic, revolutionising the ready meal market and opening up vast potential for a product which is produced here in Co Armagh.
"We are providing the answers to some of the biggest issues facing the packaging world today while at the same time offering one of the most rewarding careers for the right candidates," he said.
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The new fibre-based trays, known as Huhtamaki Fresh, replace the widely-used black plastic ready meal trays which, because the lasers used by recycling companies find it difficult to recognise the colour effectively, end up being sent to landfill.
Huhtamaki Fresh trays feel like cardboard, are Forest Stewardship Council certified, are able to be rinsed and recycled in the same manner as paper or can be composted at home.
Waitrose is currently using the new trays across its Italian ready meal range after pledging to stop using black plastic trays by the end of this year. The switch has already saved 160 tonnes of single-use plastic.
With regulations rapidly tightening around single-use plastics other retailers are expected to follow suit, creating significant demand for alternative recyclable products.
Huhtamaki is now hiring for the positions ahead of the plant's full commissioning.
The company employs around 230 people at the Lurgan plant which also makes egg boxes, drinks carriers and other moulded paper products.
Huhtamaki's parent company also owns Huhtamaki Foodservice Belfast which manufactures drinks cups and recently announced a major investment in a new factory in Antrim where it will make paper straws for McDonald's, again replacing a plastic product.