Plastic fork firm redundancies blamed on supermarket ‘greenwashing’
- Credit: Stephen Rundle
A company producing plastic forks for supermarket snacks is making most of its workforce redundant after the government announced plans to ban single-use plastic items.
Plastech Moulding, based in Horsham St Faith, previously made 60 million foldable plastic forks a year but is set to make 15 out of its 19 employees redundant after seeing orders reduced to zero.
Managing director Stephen Rundle said they had been told last week that its main supermarket client is replacing plastic with wooden forks imported from China.
“The effect on us is devastating,” he said. “We have lost 100pc of our business overnight. We got no notice it has literally been full stop.
“The factory is standing idle and I have 15 people now set to lose their jobs for reasons not based on fact, just a knee-jerk reaction.”
Mr Rundle said high profile campaigns raising concerns about the sustainability and environmental impact of single-use plastics had led supermarkets to turn to alternatives.
“There is a green-washing scenario going on where supermarkets, retailers and others want to be seen to be doing the right thing,” he said. “So without looking at the actual facts they are making sudden decisions.”
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The company began producing plastic cutlery in the UK four years ago as a less environmentally damaging alternative to importing items from China, he said.
It invested in extra machinery earlier this year so its forks could be made with biodegradable plastics.
Last month the government announced plans to ban single-use plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene cups as part of what it calls a "war on plastic".
A public consultation will launch in the autumn and the ban could be in place in a couple of years.
Environment secretary George Eustice said: “We have made progress to turn the tide on plastic, banning the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, while our carrier bag charge has cut sales by 95pc in the main supermarkets.
“Now we are looking to go a step further as we build back greener.”
Plastech Moulding, which also makes large scale plastic parts using one of largest 3D printers in the UK and recycled materials, is now trying to plug the gap in its order books.
“We are trying desperately to find other work so that we can keep some of our people,” said Mr Rundle.