Where sustainability in the fruit and vegetable industry is concerned, what goes into boxes is getting almost as much attention as the product inside them.
Growers and shippers say “going green” and saving “green” — as in money — go hand in hand.
“We’ve reduced some of our packaging costs by recycling everything,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash.
Trays recycled from Stemilt’s used boxes come back in the form of new boxes and trays, he said.
Salinas, Calif.-based Mann Packing has cut its emissions by reducing its packaging, said Gina Nucci, director of healthy culinary innovation with the vegetable grower-shipper.
In corrugated boxes, she said, board grades and pack sizes have been reduced to limit the amount of paper required to make boxes.
“At Mann’s we’ve also increased the amount of recycled content in our boxes,” Nucci said.
On the film side, roll sizes have been increased to reduce freight and limit Mann’s environmental footprint, Nucci said.
In addition, resin thickness in trays has been reduced to limit the amount of packaging required to make Mann’s tray products.
Mann also has reduced its need for corner boards and receives most of its packaging deliveries in full truckload quantities to further limit the environmental impact of transportation, Nucci said.
Cashmere, Wash.-based fruit grower-shipper Crunch Pak has reduced the volume of material used in its packaging, said Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
“Reducing the thickness of our clamshell packaging by 10% saves more than 26 tons of packaging annually,” he said. The company also reduced the thickness of single-serve bags by 20%.
“Redesigning our shipping cartons to use more recycled post-consumer corrugate keeps more than 29 tons of paperboard out of landfills annually,” Freytag said.
At Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., all clamshells contain 100% recycled plastic, said Samantha Cabaluna, vice president of marketing and communications.
Shannon Boase, director of new market development with CKF Inc., Hantsport, Nova Scotia, which recently bought her Vancouver, British Columbia-based firm, Earthcycle Packaging Ltd., said she expects to see more flow wrapping in 2014.
Boase said her company has a program with asparagus grower-shipper Gourmet Trading.
“According to Gourmet Trading, the program that they are running using an Earthcycle base with a flow wrap extends shelf life and has received tremendous feedback and support from the consumer and retailers,” Boase said.
Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms has numerous sustainable packaging initiatives, said Afreen Malik, director of technical services.
“We’re vigorously exploring options for more efficient packaging configurations that not only reduce the amount of materials used for packaging production, but also result in fuel conservation during transport, yielding an overall reduced carbon footprint,” Malik said.
The company has minimized its use of waxed cartons and continued its transition toward readily recyclable packaging materials, “achieving our benchmark for waste reduction in 2013,” Malik said.