Fresh-cut, value-added containers accelerate through 'green' light

07/28/2009 09:15:00 AM
Don Schrack

Sustainability is not limited to the grower-shipper side of the fresh produce industry.

The movement is becoming entrenched in the manufacturing of containers used for value-added and fresh-cut items — and for foodservice.

Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Fabri-Kal relaunched the company’s Alur line of containers in November.

“The line is now made with a minimum of 20% postconsumer recycled material,” said Emily Ewing, marketing manager for Fabri-Kal. “It helps to complete the sustainability loop.”

The new Alur containers are designed for use with value-added, fresh-cut food items, and in delis, she said, and are made of recycled and new thermoplastic polymer resin, also known as PET.

Conservation efforts are not new to Peninsula Packing Co., Exeter, Calif.

Seventy percent of the raw materials that go into the company’s wide range of products are from recycled plastics, said Ed Byrne, co-owner and general manager.

Electricity has been a conservation target at Peninsula Packing, too.

Two years ago, the company installed a 7-acre solar array that, Byrne said, cuts the plant’s monthly power bill by nearly $50,000.

In addition, motion sensors regulate lighting in seldom-used areas of the plant.

For its conservation efforts, Peninsula Packing was honored by the Society of Plastics Engineers, Brookfield, Conn., at the group’s Global Plastics Environmental Conference Feb. 25-27 in Orlando, Fla.

The society presented Peninsula Packing with the award for the company’s environmental leadership.

A 5-ounce clamshell from Peninsula Packing is the container chosen by Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc., for the Monterey, Calif.-based company’s five salad blends that debuted Feb 1.

The Peninsula-Dole relationship is long standing.

Dole has for years been using Peninsula Packing clamshells for its strawberries.

A resin, polylactic acid, or PLA, is the foundation for a line of clear plastic containers at Pactiv Corp., Lake Forest, Ill., said Mark Spencer, business manager for emerging materials and sustainability.

“PLA is made from corn. The products are compostable and biodegradable,” Spencer said.

Pactiv remains committed to PET products, too, Spencer said.

Pactiv uses recycled postconsumer and postindustrial materials in its PET products, he said, which reduces the material going into landfills.

Yet another green-friendly line is Pactiv’s Earth Choice, a recyclable container designed for foodservice in regions where Styrofoam has been outlawed.

“We think the role of sustainability is prevalent in packaging, and fresh produce is one of the markets that tend to embrace those technologies,” said Myra Foster, new business development manager for Elmwood Park, N.J.-based Sealed Air Corp.’s Cryovac brand, Duncan, S.C.

Among Cryovac’s environment-friendly products are the biodegradable NatureTRAYS and NaturePADS, Foster said.

“Our role at Cryovac is looking at new ways to bring innovations that don’t necessarily change the packaging format but in some cases bring new platforms to the market,” she said. “We’re looking ahead to more renewable and sustainable products.”

Logistics also play a role in Pactiv’s environmentally friendly strategy, said Tony Vatrano, marketing manager.

“We manufacture our PET containers in three locations: Southern California, Illinois and Georgia,” he said. “That helps to reduce our carbon footprint, because we’re not sending trucks all over the country from one point.

When schedules permit, Pactiv uses rail to ship its products, Vatrano said.



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