There is ever increasing concern about conservation and the environment. At Giro, the world leader for fresh produce packaging, there is a responsibility to provide solutions. The net package is one of the most sustainable that can be found among other consumer products and in particular food ones. The unique breathability and visibility of the net package does not only make the produce inside keep their natural properties, but they are displayed to the consumer in their best light, the most natural state possible. The current net bag weighs between 1.8kg and 10g to fit 1kg of fruit, a lot lower ratio in comparison to most packages in the food industry. The net bag has a lower carbon footprint when compared to other packages e.g. paper or cardboard.
Plastic and recyclability
The recyclability of plastic is undoubted from the technical point of view. Any thermoplastic can be re-melted and take other forms and uses through the known transformation techniques. However, the recyclability of a material does not only depend on the technical possibility but there is also a social education to properly separate household waste and organise the collection, selection and recycling systems and processes. These are key aspects in order to understand that packages, or plastic in particular are not the problem but the key is the legislation in a circular economy and an appropriate education.
We could say that, from a purely technical point of view any thermoplastic is recyclable and from an economical point of view it is recyclable when there is a suitable system to collect, classify and recycle. In many cases, since the classify-recycle and plastic obtaining process for new applications has not been established for economic reasons, energetic valorisation is the chosen one, in other words, the use of plastic collected as fuel for the production of energy. For this reason, the recyclability of thermoplastics depends on the systems and legislations in place.
Are Biodegradable or compostable materials the solution?
Biodegradable and compostable are different terms. Both biodegradable polymers and the compostable ones are decomposed by the action of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungus and seaweeds.
The main difference between both terms is in the deterioration time and conditions. Overall, a compostable material has a greater degradation by the environment than a biodegradable material.
A compostable material is always biodegradable but not the other way round.
To consider a material as compostable it should not leave fragments that last more than 12 weeks in the residue, it must be degraded within a determined time and proportions to established conditions, it cannot contain heavy Metals or toxins and the resulting compost must allow the growth of plants in a similar way to the one would grow in natural conditions. The mentioned requirements make compostable materials can be discarded in the organic waste bin and processed, a posteriori, in the composting plants for the production of compost.
Are these materials the ultimate solution?
Biodegradable/compostable plastics provide new opportunities, but also raise new risks and threats.
The lack of clear labelling or marking for consumers, as well as an appropriate collection and treatment of the waste, could aggravate the problem of the presence of plastic in the environment and create problems for recycling.
Due to the origin of renewable sources (corn, potato, rice, etc.) if there is substitution, largely of current plastics by these materials, it could jeopardize the food safety of producing regions and influence in the price rises of these agricultural raw materials.
The technical characteristics of packages produced with these materials are lower to the ones obtained with current plastics.
Bio/compost plastics are around 3 to 4 times more expensive than their counterparts obtained from the oil, for this reason, in many occasions the market does not want to assume this cost difference.
As a world-wide leader of fruit and vegetable packaging, Giró is currently in the final stages of development of a new range of compostable products for customers wanting this as an alternative. According to what is explained in the previous points, these materials are not the main sustainable solution advised by Giró. Our recommendation is in line with the recommendations of the European Commission that states: “A sector of intelligent, innovative and sustainable plastic where the design and the production fully respect the needs of reuse, repair and recycling”.
EcoGiró: Giro’s solutions for Sustainability and the Environment
Giró has outlined three proposals for sustainable packaging alternatives, two of them based on lightweight recyclable plastic containers and the third based on compostable materials.
The recyclable solutions allow a wide range of packaging typologies and the thermoplastic materials are polyolefins.
The compostable solution uses certified compostables. Nowadays, it is possible to produce compostable clipped bags, but in the future, it will also be possible to produce compostable thermal welded bags. Compostable bags must be deposited in an organic compostable container after use.
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