Given that plastics have been the subject of intense media scrutiny, Mark Tierney. managing director of packaging distributor Produce Packaging, was at this year's Show to set the record straight on plastic packaging. He also showcased some of the latest innovations available to fresh produce and food service customers.
Mark emphasised the fact that plastic is one of the most Viable materials to recycle. “What the plastics industry is doing is taking plastic waste and making it into a new product.” He noted, for example, that most fruit punnets sold in the UK are produced from around 70% recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, which is largely recovered from used drinks bottles. Furthermore, these punnets can be recycled by simply washing them out and removing any pad. Mark added: “Punnets are lightweight and transportable, they protect your food and then you can put them into your recycling, we are lucky in the UK that most local authority waste collections will accept plastic punnets produced from either PET or PP [polypropylene]."
Mark also highlighted the fact that Produce Packaging Ltd. which this year celebrated its 25th year supporting the Show, is, like the industry it serves, environmentally aware and therefore increasingly moving towards natural, sustainable materials such as paper-based trays. One of its ranges is produced using carton board. "It's the same board that cereal boxes are made from. We have been selling it for four years and it's becoming more popular because you can print on it. It breaks down if discarded because it's a natural product, but more importantly, it can be easily recycled." Moulded fibre, from which egg boxes are made, is another option, revealed Mark. “Made from recycled paper, not only is it recyclable in a standard waste stream, it’s also certified as being compostable, both for industrial and home composting.”
Growers might also be keen to learn about a new compostable and recyclable packaging range made from thermoformed cellulose pulp by Canadian brand Earthcycle (CKF Inc). Mark said: “Whilst the base material is not new, being able to thermoform it in a regular pattern is. So, the same technology is now being used for paper, and the benefit of thermoforming pulp is that it gives you a much more regular smooth finish.” He added: “It also enables you to put a heat-sealed lightweight film lid onto it and the products can be automatically de-nested if required. It’s about being able to become more automated and reducing packing and labour costs.”
Another innovation brought to the Show by Produce Packaging was a sustainable packaging material made by Pulltic from waste potato starch – a material that often ends up in landfill. Mark said: “It does not need to be recycled because you can put it in with your food waste collections as its plant based.”
Clearly, growers and packers have a wide range of sustainable materials to choose from. “It’s an exciting time at the moment, with a lot of innovation in the marketplace,” added Mark.