StePac unveils new sustainability strategy

StePac, a manufacturer of packaging for fresh produce, has published its new sustainability strategy. Based on four pillars, the strategy mitigates the necessity of climate-positive plastic packaging, addressing the critical problem of food waste which globally, contributes to about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Plastic packaging plays a critical role in the fresh produce and food industry, not least because of its ability to dramatically curtail food waste,” said 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.

1: Use plastic packaging only if it has positive climate effect.

StePac’s brand of Xtend modified-atmosphere packaging is climate positive, extending shelf life and reducing waste in the fresh produce supply chain while saving more carbon emissions than it generates.

In one example, exporters moved from air freight to sea freight for white asparagus, resulting in a reduction of 5,500kg CO2 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.

2: Climate-positive packaging must be as lean as possible.

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.

StePac’s patented Xflow packaging system was developed to facilitate a shift to automation for packaging bulk produce, reducing plastic use by as much as 40% in comparison to manual packing in pre-formed bags.

3: Mechanically recyclable packaging should support a circular economy.

Although many structures can be mechanically recycled, only pure streams of plastic types such as PET bottles and polyethylene permit multiple-use in the same or similar products. Non-pure plastics can only be mechanically recycled for down-streamed products and as such don’t support a circular economy.

StePac’s range of homopolymer-based products with modified atmosphere properties can be mechanically recycled to support a resource-efficient looped system. These include polyethylene-based bulk packaging products, polyethylene-based standing pouches and PET-based top-seal solutions, all suitable for those produce items and supply chains that benefit from films having a low water-vapor transmission rates.

4: Chemical recycling should complement mechanical recycling

Multilayered laminated structures cannot be mechanically recycled to be reused in the same or similar products. 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 multilayered 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.”

StePac, which has manufacturing facilities in Israel and the US, will present its new strategy at a sustainability event it is hosting at the PMA Fresh Summit in Anaheim, California on Saturday, 19 October, 2019.

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