Sustainable Packaging and Innovation

16th January 2023
Posted in Blog

Sustainable Packaging and Innovation

Plum fruit packed

Sustainable packaging is a practice that reduces the harmful effects of food packaging on the environment. As with all sustainable initiatives, actions speak louder than words. This means that positive change must come from tangible processes, typically focused on food packaging design and food packaging waste management.

In this post, we will cover:

Why is Sustainable Packaging Important?

Aside from the obvious benefits to the environment, there are a list of reasons to consider sustainable packaging for your fresh produce. The following are worth thinking about:

Conserving resources

Resources for packaging are limited, and so is the energy needed to make them. Sustainable packaging helps resources go further, and less energy to be required for the process. During this major energy crisis, sustainable packaging should attract increasingly positive attention.

Meeting demands for Green Deals and policies

There are vital targets that all businesses must achieve to meet the demands of the EU Green Deal. The only way to do this is by engraining stainable practices into your business, early.

Meeting sustainability demands has exponentially positive impacts, including some that increase returns for your business.

Firstly, they help preserve the environment on which the fresh produce industry depends for profitable trading.

Secondly, alignment with these legislative goals makes your business appealing to investors and grants. Particularly, ones that offer money for innovation and sustainability.

Circular economy and waste reduction

Sustainable packaging is less likely to go into landfill and more likely to be recycled or easily biodegraded. Not only can this reduce waste costs or fines for your business, but it can also contribute to a circular economy.

A circular economy is a model of economic growth that aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible through reuse, repair and recycling.

Innovative Packaging Methods

Across the fresh produce industry, there is a need for packaging designs with a lower carbon footprint.

This means utilising recycled materials, reducing the volume of plastic used and, among other methods – creating packaging that can degrade naturally into the ecosystem.

All the while, these products must meet the high demands of a modern industry that places profits above all else.

Does the fresh produce sector utilise sustainable packaging?

In short, yes – but it could be doing far better. Fortunately, one of the largest independent food packaging manufactures in the UK – PFF Group are leading the way with innovation.

Their innovation centre makes use of four key methods for:

  • Modifying a product shape or design
  • Downgauging product weight to reduce plastic and make savings on materials and transport costs
  • Material blending – increasing the volume of recycled content
  • Alternative materials to lightweight a product

This is just one example of how the fresh produce sector is raising its efforts to meet the challenging demands of the sustainability revolution.

For more info on how PFF is disrupting the market for the better, have a look at their work here.

Why Consider Cardboard Packaging?

Cardboard has been a commonly used material for many types of packaging. It is highly recyclable and has proven to be a good option for fruit and veg packaging when it comes to sustainability.

Food packaging experts Karl Knauer have offered some useful tips on cardboard for fruit packaging and fresh produce packaging generally. They explain:

  • Why cardboard is an effective material
  • New and emergent uses of cardboard packaging
  • Statistics for its use within the fresh produce sector

The recycling rate for cardboard, corrugated cardboard and paper in Europe is around 81%.

Businesses should ensure that materials are FSC and PEFC certified.

Cardboard can be made from cellulose found in agricultural harvest waste.

Cardboard of this nature can be used in direct contact with food just the same as virgin, fibre-based cardboard.

Cardboard can be made from grass waste.

Using local grass waste can reduce CO2 emissions by 25% and may require up to 3 metres cubed less water for each tonne of cardboard made.

The Latest News

As announced on the 30th of November 2022, the European Commission has set new targets and policies for food packaging. Some are ambitious and others, wide-reaching – but all aim at reducing harmful effects on the climate that come from food packaging being made and thrown away.

Within the EU commission overview, they cover rules on both food packaging design and packaging waste management.

In line with consumer habits and industry standards, food packaging waste is increasing and causing potentially irreversible harm to the climate.

Second, there are legislative and legal barriers within the EU that are worsening the problem. This is because different countries have different standards and rules for their processes, making unified progress hard.

There are three core aims of the Packaging Directive as proposed by the EU Commission:

  1. harmonise national measures on packaging and the management of packaging waste
  2. provide a high level of environmental protection
  3. ensure the good functioning of the internal market

The EU commission has stated some clear targets:

Freshfel Speak Up

Industry leader Freshfel has commented on the EU overview on food packaging announced at the end of November last month. Their standpoint is mostly supportive but raises some criticism on the topic of blanket ban policies and how they may do more harm than good.

Single use plastics

As per the recent report:

“…single use plastic packaging, single use composite packaging or other single use packaging for fresh fruit and vegetables less than 1.5kg would be banned on the Single Market.”

On this point of blanket bans, which refer to rules that cover many different sectors of the industry and avoid exceptions for different business types, Freshfel has expressed concern.

Freshfel represents fruit and veg traders on a national and international level, ensuring the best standards of practice in the industry and giving a voice to fruit and veg associated businesses.

Fair rules led by science

Freshfel have advocated that sustainability packaging efforts should be led by ‘science-based solutions with true results for sustainability enhancement’.

Based on the above proposal for single-use packaging, Freshfel did not state clear support since, “no other food categories are specifically targeted in the regulation [other than the fresh produce sector].”

Freshfel also note that “The fresh fruit and vegetable sector is committed to enhancing the category’s sustainability to help reach the EU’s climate neutrality target by 2050…” and that they “have proven this through our long use of the reusable pallet pool systems and recent investments such as in home compostable labels.”

They followed with support for functional and environmentally beneficial packaging, but one clear demand made by Nicolas Pisano (Freshfel Europe’s Director of Sustainability) outlined: “We are looking for a high level of harmonisation in the proposal, including technical details, to avoid further operational complexities hindering sustainability objectives.”

Put simply, big rules only work if they can be effectively broken down into actions for different businesses in the industry. These actions must be achievable and led by science, without discrimination toward different players in the food supply chain.

Summing Up

In this piece, we’ve offered some of the latest industry news on sustainable fresh produce packaging. Presenting the facts, and the views of industry representatives, it is up to the rest of the fresh produce sector to implement action.

FruPro places sustainability as a core part of our business model. As we engage more packaging and logistics players in our online marketplace, it is essential to stay up to date with the latest demands and legislation. For more updates like these, sign up to our mailing list. If you want to secure your position in the fresh produce sector – join our platform to be a part of the fresh produce future

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