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Navigating the world of sustainable packaging

In the evolving landscape of packaging, Aaron Fox, executive vice-president of Fox Packaging speaks to the complexities of sustainable packaging and the company's commitment to the fresh produce industry.

Designing flexible packaging involves many considerations: what are the product requirements? How does the product behave? Then, consideration must be given to how to make packaging more responsible without sacrificing produce quality. This involves strategies such as down gauging, design-to-fit approaches, careful material selection and material research. Circularity in sourcing and extending shelf life for fresh produce are also components of responsible packaging.

Flexible packaging safeguards products, prolongs shelf life and enhances presentation. The debate on whether the U.S. should align with the EU's model for flexible packaging necessitates an examination of supply chain impacts and material downsides.

Fox Packaging's Aaron Fox.

The Alliance for Sustainable Packaging for Foods (ASPF) provides perspective on this matter. While acknowledging the benefits of flexible packaging in curbing food loss and waste, ASPF contends that existing regulatory frameworks fail to adequately recognize these advantages. ASPF advocates for a more comprehensive regulatory perspective. They propose alternative technologies like functional Price-Look-Up (PLU) stickers for traceability and minimizing material use—a potential compromise between material reduction and maintaining food safety standards.

The concern lies in the potential unintended consequences that policies may pose to public health. This debate extends beyond regulations, impacting consumer habits and marketing strategies. Flexible packaging faces increased scrutiny and the prospect of adopting an EU-based model in the U.S. raises concerns about high costs and potential disregard for consumer habits and marketing strategies. Branding on packaging plays a vital role in fostering trust and loyalty with consumers.

Consider the geographical and climatic diversity of Texas, which could accommodate 10 EU countries within its borders. It presents logistical and climate challenges favoring flexible packaging. The versatility and resilience of flexible packaging make it well-suited for various environments, ensuring product freshness and safety under different conditions, while also offering a lightweight, efficient solution in the distribution process. Understanding the lifestyle/shopping habits of American families, characterized by larger, less frequent shopping trips due to suburban living and ample home storage space, compared to the EU's preference for smaller, more frequent purchases driven by urban proximity and daily shopping traditions, is crucial for making packaging choices that prioritize food safety and sustainability.

Paper packaging, often suggested as an alternative material to polyethylene packaging, is not without drawbacks. The recycling process is resource-intensive. A comparison of the environmental costs between paper and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) reveals that paper's sustainability merits are also not clear-cut.

Federal and state laws are shaping the future of packaging. However, there is a growing concern that these efforts may not fully grasp the impacts on communities relying on packaging in their supply chain.

For more information:
Victoria Lopez
Fox Packaging
[email protected]

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