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As the festive season approaches, the food industry experiences an increase in challenges, especially concerning the handling of returnable transit packaging (RTP). It is during this time that more RTP equipment tends to go missing than any other period of the year. While the food supply chain has faced external challenges in recent years, the focus in 2023 should be on fostering a spirit of giving back. In this article, Paul Empson, General Manager at Bakers Basco, sheds light on the importance of responsible RTP management and how it contributes to the sustainability of the baking industry.

The baking industry stands out for its minimal use of secondary packaging, primarily due to the widespread use of the humble bread basket. Despite being made from plastic, these baskets are reusable for many hundreds of times over several years, and when they reach the end of their life, they can be recycled to create replacement baskets. However, the real impact lies not just in the baskets themselves but in the evolved bakery supply chain that maximises their use. At the end of bakery lines, packing equipment collates and loads wrapped loaves directly into these reusable baskets, which are then stacked and prepared for loading into delivery vehicles.

The availability of reusable and recyclable bread baskets is only part of the story. The effective and efficient use of these baskets relies on a comprehensive system to manage and track their usage, collection, and reintroduction into the supply chain.

Seventeen years ago, recognising the need for an effective system, the five largest plant bakers in the UK established Bakers Basco, an equipment management company. Their mission was to design, source, and manage an industry-standard bread basket, leading to significant cost savings in design, raw material procurement, and production. The company also established a management system to ensure the efficient reuse of the equipment. Bakers Basco, a joint venture by Allied Bakeries, Hovis, Fine Lady Bakeries, Frank Roberts & Sons, and Warburtons, has played a pivotal role in standardising and streamlining the use of bread baskets in the UK’s bakery market.

However, the sustainability benefits of this approach can be compromised when these bread baskets are misused or misplaced, leading to their disposal in landfills or ending up in the hands of unscrupulous recyclers. Bakers Basco has developed an increasingly effective process for tracking baskets, addressing offenders, and taking legal action if necessary. Each lost basket disrupts the circular economy system, necessitating the creation of a new one and undermining the sustainability credentials of the industry and the environment.

During the festive season, the challenges intensify. The demand for safe, secure, and efficient RTP reaches its peak due to increased food sales. Those working behind the scenes face heightened pressure to ensure additional equipment is readily available for the transportation of goods across the UK, guaranteeing timely deliveries for Christmas.

In the bakery sector, the importance of responsible returns for diverted equipment cannot be overstated. Bakers Basco’s equipment, including plastic bakery trays and dollies, is designed for a lifespan of up to 10 years, playing a crucial role in the safe and efficient delivery of fresh baked goods, particularly during the busy festive season.

Despite lacking the glamour of a diamond ring or the latest tech gadget, this equipment holds intrinsic value. It is relied upon daily for the safe and efficient delivery of fresh bread and baked goods across the UK, contributing to the circular economy and environmentally friendly practices.

As we approach Christmas, the message is clear: the challenge is not a shortage issue but rather equipment being stuck in the wrong place or in the wrong hands. Bakers Basco urges everyone to be aware of their equipment’s proper use and whereabouts. In the spirit of the season, the company offers a solution—contact them, and they will arrange a free collection from anywhere in the UK.

This Christmas, let’s collectively ensure that everyone receives the gift they deserve. While Bakers Basco’s national investigations team diligently works to reclaim equipment diverted from the supply chain, it’s a shared responsibility for everyone to contribute to a smoother and more responsible holiday season.

In conclusion, let this festive season be a reminder of the collective responsibility we hold in preserving the sustainability of our industry and the environment. By giving back to the circular economy, we can ensure that our baskets continue to play a vital role in delivering the gift of fresh, responsibly produced baked goods for many more seasons to come.

If you notice a build-up of equipment or come across abandoned items, reach out to Bakers Basco at 0800 032 7323 to arrange a free collection. For more information, visit

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