Sustainable packaging becomes top priority for suppliers
Sustainability has numerous connotations, including environmental, as well as economic, impacts across the produce industry, packaging suppliers and their clients say.
McAllen, Texas-based Fox Packaging looks at sustainability on several fronts.
“Sustainability is an active solution to economic, environmental and social drivers, which encourage us to continue to consciously create and modify our offerings to perform in a thoughtful manner,” said Jasper Trujillo, business development manager at Fox Packaging.
“At the end of the day, our packaging protects fresh produce — it is our goal that our Fox bags continue to provide that protection, communicate health, and continue to exhibit quality on the shelf.”
Fox Packaging defines “sustainability” as meeting present needs “without compromising quality, ensuring that our customers’ products meet the criteria to stay on store shelves,” said Aaron Fox, executive vice president.
Trujillo pointed to numerous products Fox has launched recently.
“Evolving our Fox Stand-Up Combo bag, we have introduced both the Fox Eco StandUp and HD Stand-Up bag to offer our customers eco-friendly packaging alternatives,” he said. “Both packaging designs offer solutions in reaching sustainability goals, whether it be to have a 100% recyclable packaging program or reducing plastic consumption.”
Trial and error
Sustainability involves a lot of trial and error, Aaron Fox said.
“At Fox Packaging, we dedicate ourselves to product development and in being continuous thought-leaders in the flexible packaging industry,” he said.
“In this, we have deepened our partnership with our film providers, conducting trials with material solutions that maintain packaging integrity while offering sustainable solutions.”
It is critical to stay abreast of the changes affecting the industry and communicate with and educate customers of the impacts these changes make — understanding the importance of making informed buying decisions, said Craig Fox, another executive vice president at Fox Packaging.
“One of our main challenges is communicating the up-and-down sides of sustainable packaging to help share the scope of impacts beyond the shelf,” he said.
“In response to the many misconceptions associated with this, we developed a quick reference guide to better understand various packaging alternatives.”
Everything in the packaging business revolves around sustainability, said Jeff Watkin, graphic and marketing manager of Collinsville, Ill.-based packaging manufacturer Sev-Rend.
“Sustainability is not just a major trend; it is the biggest trend in 2019,” Watkin said.
Sev-Rend has commercialized a full range of recyclable options featuring mono-polymer construction fitting with the extensive recycling infrastructure, Watkin said.
“The challenge is to educate consumers on how to properly take advantage of it to ensure maximum recycling of packaging,” he said.
Sev-Rend avoids using solvents in lamination and uses only water-based inks — all good for the einvironment, Watkin said.
“The printing and laminating process can be adopted immediately without major changes at the packing facilities and will have immediate impact compared to some of the longer trends that will take major changes in the packaging supply chain,” he said.
Pulp-focused Georgia-Pacific prioritizes sustainability, as well, said Julie Davis, director of public affairs and communications.
“Sustainability continues to be an important factor for our customers, and their end consumer,” she said. “Paper-based packaging carries the benefit of using fiber that is sustainably sourced from a renewable resource and is typically recyclable.”
Georgia-Pacific is receiving positive feedback from customers on a new recycling technology the company will be launching that can process and recover recyclables from food-contaminated material, Davis said.
“We remain focused on designing packaging that provides the appropriate strength and functionality to avoid overpackaging and maximizing the strength of the fiber we use,” she said.
Canby, Ore.-based Package Containers Inc. has a similar philosophy, said Dave DeMots, CEO.
“Our paper bags are available in recycled, compostable and recyclable materials,” he said. “Our inks and glues are biodegradable, water-soluble and locally sourced.”
Packaging manufacturer Sonoco Products has invested heavily in new sustainability initiatives, Roman Forowycz, vice president of integrated solutions at the company’s Elk Grove Village, Ill., branch, said.
The company takes a “holistic” approach in its process that cut the use of natural resources, he said.
“The biggest challenge is in communicating the pros and cons of each new technology,” he said. “CPGs, retailers and consumers are still confused by many of the terms and many of the challenges associated with each initiative.”
Kwik Lok programs
Union Gap, Wash.-based Kwik Lok Corp. recently launched Eco-Lok, a bag closure made with sustainable materials, said Karen Reed, marketing and communications director.
“This is a big step in the company’s drive to reduce its environmental impact,” she said.
The new Eco-Lok product, used as a closure on consumer food products, such as apple or potato bags, is formulated with a plant-based biopolymer called NuPlastiQ that requires up to 20% fewer greenhouse gas emissions to produce than standard plastic bag closures, Reed said.
“Eco-Lok maintains the qualities of existing Kwik Lok plastic closures — it is printable, reusable, recyclable and metal detector compatible,” she said.
Eco-Lok is one piece of an “industrywide opportunity” for responsible environmental stewardship, Reed said.
Kwik Lok also collaborated with France-based ARC to develop the Kwik Link semi-automatic machine that binds bunches together, then ads a closure and label for promotion and traceability, Reed said.
“The result is less packaging for a smaller carbon footprint,” she said.
Produce industry sees sustainability as future of packaging