Clamshell packaging such as this is still the most common for many produce items. To help minimize waste and lessen environmental impact, Wish Farms plans to test compostable fiber punnets using top-seal film, says Nick Wishnatzki, marketing and projects manager. ( Courtesy Wish Farms )

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While package makers focus on minimizing waste that ends up in landfills, they’re also mindful to minimize biodegradable waste by developing bags, clamshells and boxes that protect product shelf life, marketers say.

“Packaging that keeps products fresher, longer helps curb biodegradable waste,” said Nicole Lipson, segment marketing manager with Atlanta-based box manufacturer WestRock. 

WestRock designs corrugated containers to help keep foods fresh through the supply chain, Lipson said.

“For example, our 8-sided boxes allow for airflow through the pallet, which helps cool certain products and extend shelf life,” she said.

Packaging makes its “best contribution” to diverting waste from landfills “through proper sorting,” said Victoria Lopez, marketing representative with McAllen, Texas-based bag maker Fox Packaging.

“When materials are sorted and recycled as per a municipality’s capability, materials will meet their end-of-life intention, contributing to the PCR (post-consumer resin) value stream,” she said.

Keeping food fresh is an ecological — not just culinary — issue, said Karen Reed, marketing and communications director with Union Gap, Wash.-based Kwik Lok Corp.

“Food waste contributes about 12% of the greenhouse gases impacting our planet,” she said. 

“The right packaging solutions can minimize food waste and lessen the impacts to the environment. It’s also important not to use more material in packaging than is necessary to meet freshness and protection objectives.”

One noteworthy development on the packaging front, toward that end, has been the industry embrace of top-seal technology, said Nick Wishnatzki, marketing and projects manager with Plant City, Fla.-based Wish Farms.

“It is an extremely consumer-friendly package and also environmentally conscious, as it uses less plastic than a traditional clamshell,” he said. 

Wish Farms plans to try out compostable fiber punnets utilizing that technology, Wishnatzki said.

“With a goal to be more sustainable, these potential candidates open the door to an exciting, green future for our company,” he said.

Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific works directly with its clients to minimize waste, said Michael Hayford, area general manager of GP Corrugated.

“Often, we are able to decrease the fiber content of the box while keeping the strength our customers need; in other instances, we help customers reduce waste by eliminating overpackaging,” he said. 

“As a corrugated packaging producer, we are proud to be part of an industry with one of the highest recovery rates for recycling — around 90% for the past several years.”

Packaging that is “right-sized for the product” is an ideal way to reduce waste, said Rachel Kenyon, senior vice president of the Itaska, Ill.-based Fibre Box Association.

“It is also important to consider the purpose of the package: to not only sell the product but also to protect it while it moves through the supply chain,” she said. 

Preventing product damage also prevents incremental waste, Kenyon said.

“Spoiled products cannot be used and so they become waste,” she said.

Then, the package itself should be recycled to minimize waste, as well, Kenyon said. 

“Corrugated and other paper-based packaging is made to be recycled and most contains around 50% recycled fiber already,” she said. 

“When boxes are emptied, they are readily recycled and used to make new boxes and support a circular economy.”

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