In the past years, the produce industry, alongside many other industries, has been focusing on the reduction and elimination of plastic in packaging. Simultaneously, there has been an awareness that plastic is also necessary to help ensure quality and shelf-life in perishable products, especially ones that are shipped around the world. As sustainability continues to be a focus for many growers, packers, and shippers around the world, Tres Castillos, a family owned company with a focus on social responsibility, has come up with a new eco-design packaging liner which has 30% less plastic that other liners.
25-30% reduction of polyethylene
Felipe Illanes explains how the company came across this new innovation: “We actually developed this liner unintentionally. We were looking for an additive to plastic that would increase moisture control, so that the moisture and condensation would be reduced. We did find a good solution for this, an organic additive that is 100% recyclable and doesn’t interfere with the plastic. As we were looking at the recipe of the plastic, we realized that we’d reduced the amount of polyethylene in the bag by about 25%. We sent it to a third-party lab to measure it and got verification that the amount of plastic was reduced by 27%. We stumbled on this discovery unintentionally, but it is arguably even more valuable than what we were initially looking for.”
The new, reduced-plastic bag has the same design and features as the original version, except it is much more environmentally friendly due to its lower plastic content. “It still offers the same protection that is necessary when transporting fresh produce and will keep the products safe and protected during long journeys. It actually even has the same weight and thickness as the original version, just with 25-30% less plastic. To me, that’s a good achievement. It’s something we need in our industry and a discovery we should take advantage of,” Illanes says.
Strong market during the pandemic
It has been a good year for Tres Castillos this year. “This is mainly because most of our competition comes from China,” Illanes explains. “We have seen that the customers here in Chile are now preferring our domestic product over the imported packaging from China. This could be because the supply chain is maybe not as expedited as it usually is, or maybe they’ve experienced availability issues. I think there’s also a new bias toward local production due to the current situation. Logistically, it makes more sense to use the domestic packaging suppliers too – why import packaging material from China, only to pack your products in it and then send it back over to Asia?” he adds.
The company has been seeing a strong market for exporting their materials, too. “We’ve been exporting to Brazil and Peru a lot recently and are starting to expand in Mexico and in the US. We’re still looking for more partners in the US, but there is a lot of potential in the North American market. Overall, more plastic is being incorporated into packaging than it was before the pandemic, so it’s great that we can offer a solution that has a lower percentage of polyethylene,” Illanes concludes.