Jac. Vandenberg, a U.S. fresh produce importer, is transitioning from plastic nets used to pack their citrus fruits in favor of a compostable alternative made from beech tree pulp.
The nets are made by biogenic packaging company VPZ, based in Austria, from wood that is a by-product of the forest industry. When trees in FSC® and PEFC-certified sustainable beechwood forests grow to a certain height, some are thinned out to give the remaining trees space and light to grow. The wood is then chipped and broken down further into pulp, spun into a string-like material, then knitted together into a net tube, ready for use. These fibers from which the netting is formed are certified as compostable and biodegradable within weeks under industrial, home, soil and marine conditions.
Jac. Vandenberg has been working to expand their environmentally friendly packaging solutions. Just last summer, they introduced their plastic-free boxes for their Sunrays® mandarins which became the first food and beverage product in the United States to be certified under the Plastic Free Trust Mark.
“We are always looking at the packaging we currently use to try and change it so we can get the most environmental sustainable packaging that we can,” says John Paap, Brand Manager at Jac. Vandenberg.
“While we’d love to eliminate packaging altogether, it does play a significant role in ensuring product quality as the product is distributed through the supply chain. Our job is to make sure that packaging is as environmentally friendly as possible.”
The new tree-based netting, which has earned the USDA BioPreferred designation, bears significantly positive environmental impact. According to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), the fiber production for these nets results in 60% lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil-based PE granulate production for standard plastic nets. Other environmental benefits include the complete avoidance of microplastics.
“Our new bags will have only 1% of the plastic compared to the traditional plastic-mesh netting bag with film wrap around. There is a plastic coating on the tag affixed to the netting. However, we are actively exploring an organic, plastic-free solution to the tag which we hope to have available before next summer” shares Paap.
“In addition to the positive environmental impact, with the breathable and moisture-regulating properties of the material, produce keeps fresh for 2-3 days longer.”
Starting June 2020, Jac. Vandenberg will be the first and exclusive company in United States packing their Sunrays® brand mandarins and Bagu brand oranges and mandarins in this tree-based biodegradable netting.