The role of reusable, recyclable and returnable transit packaging for food processors in a circular economy

As we all continue to address the challenges of the ‘new normal’, Schoeller Allibert says it is time for food processors to put sustainability back at the top of the agenda.

“Throughout 2020, issues of stock control and maintaining continuous supply have taken precedence for many food processors,” said Nick James, Sales Director with the European market leader in the production of recyclable, reusable and returnable plastic packaging solutions. “This was of course completely understandable and justifiable, with the country in the grip of the global coronavirus pandemic. But as we emerge into whatever economic situation 2021 brings, it is vital that sustainability issues are returned to the top of the list of priorities.

“We know food processors are seeking robust and sustainable solutions that minimise supply chain complexity and waste, while boosting food safety and hygiene,” said Nick. “But sustainability is increasingly not just a key driver for consumers – for many it is THE key driver, and so the time to act is now.

“Many in the FMCG sector are now reviewing every aspect of their operations and processes, in an effort to reduce their environmental impact while maintaining efficiency and security of supply. Reducing waste materials going to landfill and impact from transportation pollution are two of the key targets for these businesses seeking to address their sustainability agenda.

“Often, when we think of sustainability within the food manufacturing supply chain, we look at efforts to reduce carbon emissions, immediately focusing on sourcing, reduction of food waste and CO2 output from vehicle logistics,” said Nick. “But changes in handling, storage, logistics and warehousing are the actions that have not only been making an impact against environmental targets, but also delivering tangible benefits for the manufacturer. As a supplier of closed loop transit packaging solutions, we have seen many businesses already achieving real sustainability gains through the use of returnable transit packaging, such as stackable and nestable containers. And as we move closer to Net Zero in 2050 – or maybe even sooner – it is now vitally important that sustainability is a core focus at every level of the supply chain.”

Nick explained that returnable transit packaging solutions are hygienic, stackable and nestable to maximise freight storage. Products are protected against harsh environmental conditions and quality is not compromised, which leads to a significant reduction in waste and spoilage. As well as being made from recycled materials and promoting continual resource use, Schoeller Allibert’s returnable transit packaging solutions are fully compatible with all automated handling equipment, optimising logistics and process efficiency for further benefits.

“Stackable and nestable containers maximise freight storage, essentially preventing waste through the transportation of fresh air when filled with goods,” he said. “When returning them for reuse, the containers being nestable improves vehicle fill compared with standard straight-walled containers, bringing environmental benefits by reducing the number of journeys, as well as delivering logistics cost benefits for the retailer.

“Sustainability and product safety are at the heart of our designs, with solutions specifically developed for different sectors and product types. For example, one model – aimed at the meat and fisheries sector – has conical sidewalls to improve cold air circulation when containers are stacked and flanked,” explained Nick. “As well as protecting the food during transit, this design reduces the amount of energy needed to store temperature-critical produce, minimising the environmental impact in transit and also ensuring product quality is maintained.”

Nick explained that the use of recycled materials in the manufacture of returnable transit packaging is also contributing to the sustainability effort. “Again, as an example, we provide a service whereby we collect, repurpose and reuse plastic pallet collars, upgrading recycled plastics to manufacture returnable transit packaging solutions, thereby closing the loop,” he said. “We are working to reduce virgin plastic consumption without having to compromise on the quality and strength of the products.

“As the growing intensity of demand filters through the supply chain, the importance of demonstrating a focus on sustainability efforts cannot be overstated,” said Nick. “In the face of such challenges, reusable, recyclable and returnable transport packaging has an opportunity to play both a considerable and equally vital role in achieving a circular economy.”

 

Innovations in Food (& Beverage) Processing & Packaging is a quarterly magazine distributed globally both in Print and Digital formats. www.innovationsfood.com.  Twitter: @Innovfoodtech.  Instagram: @innovationsinfoodtechnology.  Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/terry-prior52