Sugar cane packaging leaves smaller ‘footprint’Nature & More, an international distributor of organic produce, is using a new packaging material made from sugar cane that company officials hope will become popular worldwide.

The material has been featured this year at international trade shows. It looks and feels like cardboard. It can be recycled as paper and is made from plant waste leftover from the sugar production process so no trees or other pulp sources are required, said Michael Wilde, sustainability and communications manager for Nature & More and its sister company Eosta.

“Our hope is not so much that we will be supplying U.S. companies with our organic products in these trays, but much more that U.S. packing companies will pick this up themselves. This way we can make a much bigger sustainable impact,” Wilde said.

The Dutch company has been working with its packaging suppliers for more than two years on the development of the sugar cane material, Paul Hendriks, Nature & More packaging expert, said in a news release. The company is using the fiber-based paperboard for organic vine tomatoes, pears and cape gooseberries at the request of some retail customers.

The paperboard is produced by a Colombian company, Carvajal Pulp and Paper, which has a facility in the Cauca River Valley where nearby sugar cane fields provide the raw materials. Some of the cane fields have been in production for 100 years, according to the release.

Among the first retailers to opt for the sugar cane packaging is the French supermarket chain Carrefour, according to the release from Nature & More.

“As part of our anti-waste program, packaging is a very important issue for Carrefour,” product manager Julie Mahmoun said in the release. “We encourage our suppliers to minimize the environmental footprint of packaging by focusing on recycling and working with renewable and waste materials. The Eosta/Nature & More sugar cane tray fits our philosophy and that is why we have selected it for our organic fruits and vegetables.”

The sugar cane packaging is guaranteed oil-free and does not contain any genetically modified material, according to the news release. No new land is required to produce it because it comes from sugar cane fields that are already in production. Also, because of sugar cane’s fast growth/harvest cycle, there is a steady supply of the plant waste used to produce it, according to the release.