Looking to learn more about sustainable practices throughout the fresh produce supply chain? Register now to hear from industry leaders at The Packer's Sustainable Produce Summit, a free virtual event Sept. 22-24.
Increasing automation, using bio-based materials and stepping up recycling education efforts are a few ways suppliers have responded to sustainable packaging demands during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From packaging production, to packaging disposal, panelists at a July 20 sustainable packaging session at the Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice: Delivered virtual event addressed some of the steps they are taking to meet the consumer desire for sustainable packaging alternatives.
“Now is the time to review and update your packaging,” said Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain and sustainability at PMA.
Fox Packaging, McAllen, Texas, uses automation in its package manufacturing process.
“Automation actually contributes to your sustainability goals by reducing the total amount of giveaway, and it increases your workers’ skillset while reducing that electric consumption,” Victoria Lopez, marketing at Fox Packaging, said during the session.
While the tools that go into the production of packaging can make the difference in sustainability, some companies are focusing on the packaging materials being used.
“We thought we wanted to make something that is renewable, and that is this packaging here which is fully made of cellulose,” said Roland Arbesleitner, head of sales at VPZ Packnatur, based in Graz, Austria.
Other companies have focused on potato starch packaging, compostable bags, tree-free packaging, readycycle packaging, reusable packaging and plastic-free packaging.
“Plastic is not bad; it’s one of man’s greatest innovations,” Lopez said. “It’s how we treat plastic after a job well-done — that’s the biggest hurdle.”
Fox Packaging joined the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and is using the How2Recycle label, which tells consumers what to do with the packaging after using the product, encouraging recycling.
Labels can be problematic for recycling plants, so Belmark Inc., De Pere, Wis., introduced labels that wash off to create a smoother recycling process.
“The adhesive of the label contaminates the purity of the recycling material stream,” Belmark’s Jason Vandeloo, said during the session. “Belmark offers a unique adhesive technology that with a polypropylene labeling material, will cleanly separate from the PET clamshell during the wash and sorting process at the recycling center.”
Belmark Inc. also uses the How2Recycle program and offers packaging made with post-consumer waste recycled content.