Berry growers and trade associations in the U.S., Mexico and South America are pledging to use 100% recycle-ready packaging for all fresh berries by 2025.
The collaboration includes a commitment to new label standards throughout North America, an agreement to encourage consumer recycling of clamshells, and plans to establish new purchase specifications for packaging manufacturers, according to a news release.
The initiative’s website is BerrySustainable.com.
The commitment is a team effort, said Kasey Cronquist, president of the North American Blueberry Council.
“This commitment to 100% recycle-ready packaging reflects a team effort and our continued focus on helping our growers, shippers and industry partners attain a goal that no one organization could accomplish alone,” Cronquist said in the release.
Groups that have signed on for the initiative are:
- California Strawberry Commission
- North American Blueberry Council
- Asociacion national de Exportadores de Berries (Aneberries), Mexico
- National Berry Crops Initiative members
The Argentinean Blueberry Committee, Chilean Blueberry Committee and Peru’s ProArandanos have also pledged to adopt the sustainable packaging goals.
“By working together as competitive collaborators, these actions will create economies of scale to reduce costs, and stimulate a closed-loop circular economy that recycles berry clamshells back into new berry clamshells,” according to the release.
For more than a decade, clamshells used to pack berries and other food have been made from recycled materials, according to the release, and this initiative complements those efforts.
“Berry farming has a long history of innovation and leadership that once again came together to make this ambitious pledge,” Rick Tomlinson, president of the California Strawberry Commission, said in the release. “Achieving 100% recycle ready packaging represents the type of continuous improvement that is common among farmers as they strive for ever improving efficiency.”
“Recycle-ready” refers to the industry enacting measures to to maximize recyclability, but acknowledging there is a variability in acceptance and infrustructure at materials recycling facilities and recyclers, according to a spokesperson for the group.
The berry groups are not calling for an end to plastic packaging, which uses post-consumer products like water bottles to make clamshells. Clamshells create a market for those water bottles and make a lightweight and clear packaging to protect berries from damage and contamination, according to the release, reducing food waste and use of raw materials to make food packaging.
“Clamshell packaging revolutionized the ability of berry growers to transport their fruit to consumers nationwide,” Henry Bierlink, president of the National Berry Crops Initiative, said in the release. “Now, the industry is working together on the next phase of that revolution, one that preserves the ability to safely transport fresh berries to market while minimizing product damage, reducing food waste, and demonstrating ongoing environmental stewardship.”
Berry companies are making commitments to “explore more sustainable and scalable solutions,” including:
- Encouraging material recyclers and consumers to recycle clamshells;
- Using post-consumer recycled content in clamshells; and
- Supporting use of new materials that are readily recyclable and/or compostable.