European meat packers and retailers are looking for more sustainable plastic packaging to help maximise sales. Limitations in polypropylene, in terms of barrier performance and shelf appeal, have increased European demand for more sustainable packaging, according to food packaging business Linpac.
“Changing consumer lifestyles and heightened awareness of environmental issues, such as food and packaging waste, are behind this shift from PP to Rfresh PET packaging,” said Alan Davey, innovation director at Linpac.
Linpac’s Rfresh PET packaging is made up of 95% post-consumer recycled plastic. Other environmental benefits include the ability to seal trays at reduced temperatures, which uses less energy, improving its carbon footprint.
To seal around 70 million polypropylene trays at 200 degrees requires close to 200,000 watts (w) of energy, compared to 131,000w to seal the same amount of PET trays at 150 degrees.
The carbon footprint of the rPET trays is normally around 15% less than the normal polypropylene trays, Davey explained.
“At the end of their service life, the trays can also be recycled back into the food packaging chain. This is not the case with PP (polypropylene) trays, though, as PP is commonly used for a number of non-food packaging applications – for example, chemical garden products – that end up back in the same recycling chain, contaminating the flake and making it unsuitable for further food packaging use.”
Davey said PET packaging was becoming an increasingly “popular choice” for poultry packaging, but the full benefits it boasts in comparison to polypropylene were “just beginning to be recognised by packers and retailers”.
Clean packaging boosts sales
Aside from the environmental benefits attached to PET packaging, Davey pointed to the fact that the “crystal clear” tray packaging could help maximise sales as consumers are better able to check out fresh the meat is.
“Barrier performance is increased by up to 50 times when using PET packaging,” he added. “While consumers may be shopping more frequently, the supply chain is becoming more complex so it is imperative that packaging helps to retain product freshness so that poultry looks appealing once it reaches the supermarket shelf.”
Davey also said the global drive to be more sustainable was “changing the poultry packaging sector” and said innovative pack design mixed with on-pack graphics would be “critical factors” moving forwards.