According to a recent report, Attitudes Towards Ethical Foods in the UK, conducted by consumer, media and market research supplier Mintel, three-quarters of British people believe that they have a duty to recycle.

Julie Sloan, senior market analyst at Mintel says: "People in Britain today are clearly moving towards more ethical lifestyles and are starting to realise that their actions have consequences.

In such a climate, many companies may be hoping to improve their profile by projecting a more ethical stance."

Chevler Packaging’s plastics division, one of the UK’s leading food packaging specialists, supplies sandwich and patisserie boxing to bakeries and supermarkets.

Part of its operation includes reducing waste, which in turn helps to cut costs.

Twenty-four per cent waste is typical after plastic products have been moulded, so Chevler trims off this excess, collects it and returns it to the supplier for recycling.

As a result, some of the sheet PVC supplied to the company contains recycled material, says Norman Chase of Chevler.

Dr Liz Goodwin, director of materials for WRAP, the Waste & Resources Action Programme, says: "In recent research conducted by WRAP, 79% of consumers said they would feel ’more positive’ about a brand or a manufacturer that uses recycled plastic."

WRAP is a major government-funded UK programme, established to promote resource efficiency, waste minimisation, reuse and recycling.

WRAP’s research found that large amounts of rigid plastic were not being recycled in the baking industry and so it funded a six-month trial for Axion’s mobile plastics recycling unit to travel to different areas in the UK and shred bakery waste.

In a matter of seconds, the unit is able to shred bulky bakery waste, such as plastic trays, crates, containers, ingredient tubs and bins, which have traditionally been too expensive to recycle because of transportation costs.

The trial ran from August until the end of October. Axion is now trying to find someone else to take over the recycling unit.

Alternatives to PVC and non-biodegradeable packaging materials are also of growing importance to the industry, as consumers become more environmentally friendly.

Some Scandinavian countries are putting, or have already put, regulations in force that ban PVC packaging for food. Marks & Spencer moved away from using PVC products, which are derived from oil and are non-biodegradable.

It uses recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) across its lunchtime ’Food to Go...’ range of fresh sandwiches, salads, juices and smoothies.

Another alternative, to non-biodegradeable packaging materials includes packaging made from PLA, an environmentally-friendly thermoplastic polymer, made from corn starch, which is biodegradeable and often cheaper, as it is not derived from oil.

Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery, a chain of 44 shops located across north-west England, launched biodegradable packaging for its sliced bread sandwiches.

According to the firm, the clear window is made from PLA, which degrades twice as fast as newspaper and three times as fast as wood, leaving no harmful residues.

The coated board for the main body of the packs is Tecta, which is fully recyclable, and the inks for printing contain vegetable oils and natural resins.