StePac, which specializes in functional packaging for fresh produce, shared with attendees at PMA Fresh Summit its four-tiered strategy to reduce excess plastic while minimizing waste – of food and plastic – and continuing to support produce distribution efforts worldwide.
“Plastic packaging plays a critical role in the fresh produce and food industry, not least because of its ability to dramatically curtail food waste,” says Gary Ward, Business Development Manager for StePac. “Our technology is based on four pillars of sustainability designed to significantly lighten the environmental footprint of plastic packaging.
- 1st Pillar: Use plastic packaging only if it has positive climate effect. Plastic allowed for Peruvian exporters to switch from air freight to sea freight of white asparagus to Europe, resulting in a reduction of 5,500 kg carbon dioxide emissions/ton of product shipped. “Rejecting the use of such innovative packaging for similar supply chains would increase carbon emissions and drag the industry a big, unsustainable — and expensive — step backwards,” said Ward.
- 2nd Pillar: Climate-positive packaging must be as lean as possible. Use of StePac’s lean top-seal film reaps the dual benefits of extending shelf-life while saving 20-30% plastic over conventional clamshells. “We use films that are typically 20-35 microns thick for both preformed bags and automated packaging — considerably thinner than most alternatives,” said Ward
- 3rd Pillar: Mechanically recyclable packaging should support a circular economy. StePac boasts a range of homopolymer-based products with modified atmosphere properties that can be mechanically recycled to support a resource-efficient looped system.
· 4th Pillar: Chemical recycling should complement mechanical recycling. Chemical recycling converts plastic materials into their initial monomers, allowing them to be reborn into new plastic products. “Replacing these sophisticated plastic structures without increasing waste is no simple task,” said Ward. “We have multi-layered plastic structures that conform to chemical recycling, a process which is complementary to mechanical recycling systems in facilitating a true circular economy. This is the direction the industry is taking, and StePac’s goal is to lead it toward a more sustainably sound phase.”