Fresh packaging company StePac L.A. Ltd., Tefen, Israel, has unveiled a sustainability strategy with four pillars.
The company plans to present the strategy at a sustainability event it is hosting at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Oct. 19 in Anaheim, Calif.
Although limiting the use of plastic in packaging fresh produce, particularly on store shelves, is a focus of sustainable packaging initiatives, abandoning its use would exacerbate the problem of food waste, according to a StePac news release. Plastic is the medium most capable of keeping food fresher, allowing for wider food distribution, according to the release.
“Plastic packaging plays a critical role in the fresh produce and food industry, not least because of its ability to dramatically curtail food waste,” Gary Ward, business development manager for StePac, said in the release. “Our technology is based on four pillars of sustainability designed to significantly lighten the environmental footprint of plastic packaging.”
The pillars are:
- Use plastic only if it has a positive climate effect;
- Climate-positive packaging must be lean as possible;
- Mechanically recyclable packaging should support a circular economy; and
- Chemical recycling should complement mechanical recycling.
StePac’s Xtend modified-atmosphere packaging is climate positive, according to the company, in that it extends shelf life and reduces food waste while saving more carbon emissions than it generates. For example, Peruvian asparagus exporters were able to use sea freight instead of air freight when shipping to Europe with Xtend. The packaging also allowed Salinas, Calif., shippers to stop using non-recyclable wax cartons when shipping cross-country, according to the release.
StePac’s top-seals are lean, cutting 20-30% plastic over conventional clamshell, and the company’s Xflow packaging system can reduce plastic by as much as 40% compared to manual packing in pre-formed bags, according to the release.
Non-pure plastics can be mechanically recycled for only down-streamed products, not supporting a “circular economy,” according to the release. StePac has a range of homopolymer-based products with modified atmosphere properties that can be mechanically recycled to “support a resource-efficient looped system,” according to the release.
Chemical recycling is necessary for some more sophisticated fresh produce packaging, allowing them to be turned into new products.
“We have multilayered plastic structures that conform to chemical recycling, a process which is complementary to mechanical recycling systems in facilitating a true circular economy,” Ward said in the release. “This is the direction the industry is taking, and StePac’s goal is to lead it toward a more sustainably sound phase.”