Since 2018, the vegetable cooperative Solarenn (Saint-Armel, Ille-et-Vilaine) has been committed and initiating the first tests for eco-responsible packaging. In 2019, the cooperative replaced its recyclable plastic trays by cardboard trays for the tomatoes “Les Responsables”. In 2020, its entire range of products will benefit from cardboard trays. By 2022, the goal is to use 100% recyclable packaging exclusively (trays and films) for all Solarenn products. A commitment which is in line with the expectations of French consumers, who are more and more concerned about the environmental impact generated by their consumption and therefore push the actors of the food industry to adapt.
The Solarenn tomatoes are guaranteed to be grown without synthetic pesticides from the seed to the plate, and they also benefit from the High Environmental Value (HEV) certification, level 3, the ultimate level recognized by the State and several environmental NGOs. For Solarenn, eco-designed packaging is essential. “It protects the product during transportation, preserves its quality and ensures its traceability for the consumers. We must fight over-packaging and not packaging itself. Because of the reality of the field and the distribution circuit, we cannot guarantee today that, with a product without packaging, the virtuous production of our products would be respected all the way to the consumer. They would likely lose their traceability and come in direct contact with products containing pesticides,” explains Isabelle Georges, director of Solarenn.
The objective of Solarenn is to design 100% recyclable and sustainable packaging solutions that will not harm the environment. To do so, we must select the right materials and think about the entire life cycle of the product. Today, only certain categories of materials are recyclable and processed by sorting centers. For example, organic packaging is only compostable, which is not for most households and adds a technical constraint.
Fifth operator on the tomato market in France, ranking 3rd among Breton producers, the Solarenn cooperative (Ille-et-Vilaine) gathers 32 producers for over 65 ha of greenhouses. It has 30 permanent employees and up to 50 seasonal workers in the summer (equivalent to 45 full-time workers). All together, the farms represent about 500 people. In 2019, the cooperative reported a revenue of 45 million euros [49.1 million USD] and sold 26,000 tons of tomatoes, 40 tons of gariguette strawberries and 100 tons of mini bell peppers.
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