Fruit and vegetable products are characterised by their freshness, which is increasingly valued and demanded by consumers. The packaging system for fruit and vegetables has to preserve these characteristics, which, in many cases, might be more complex than it seems. Having sustainable packaging can be the key to achieving it. This has been one of the central issues of the sessions held at the Fruit Attraction LiveConnect, one of the largest Marketplaces and Professional Networks in the world, specialised in the fruit and vegetable sector.
During these sessions, among other topics, the technological challenges related to the future packaging of fruit and vegetables were discussed. The experts agreed that the focus should be on sustainability, both for container and packing solutions. In their opinion, this concept has three aspects, which should be considered in the packaging solutions:
- Environmental: proposals aimed at reversing the problem of climate change and providing solutions related to the concept of eco-design.
- Social: related to aspects such as the useful life provided to the product, safety, or comfort of the consumer.
- Economic: Being able to do it profitably. It should be noted that plastics reduce the weight of packaging, reducing the environmental and economic costs of its transport.
Other topics of interest: What are PET/PE containers and why are they revolutionary
Factors that should be considered in the assessment of the sustainability of packaging
AINIA considers that there are two key factors to correctly assess the sustainability of a packaging solution:
- The packaging as a whole: it is not necessary to analyse the packaging material itself, nor the packaging system, but rather the packaging as a whole with the food it will contain.
- The context or environment: the circumstances under which the packaged product is presented. Current situations such as the health crisis of COVID-19, creates the need for different packaging solutions to those required in normal situations, safety and hygiene being, nowadays, the main concerns.
In this context, the consumer perceived the fresh product packaging as a barrier to contamination. But, as time goes by, the importance of sustainability becomes more relevant. In fact, 70.5% of consumers state that it will be important to recycle product packaging to avoid excess plastic, according to data provided by the Association of Manufacturers and Distributors (AECOC). And, therefore, recycling is the key direction in which the process must go.
There are different advantages in the use of plastics in food packaging: it can improve its gas and moisture barrier properties, protect and preserve food for longer, which reduces food waste and packaging waste itself. Multilayer packaging seems to be the most suitable for this purpose, as it merges the functionalities of several polymers with the aim of developing a better performing package. RepetCo Innovations has developed a unique technology to recycle them, allowing them to be reused in the food industry.
Regarding this fact, the question may arise whether it is safe to use recycled plastic in contact with food. This is precisely the objective of the functional barrier. It is an internal layer of the materials and objects in contact with the food that will protect the food from substances from the exterior. Therefore, these barriers can be used to incorporate recycled plastics into objects in contact with food, such as multilayer packaging, as they are separated by the functional barrier.