Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries — the whole berry family is committing to recyclable packaging.
Berry producers in North America recently pledged to use 100 percent recyclable packaging by 2025, according to a joint release from the California Strawberry Commission, Aneberries Mexico, the North American Blueberry Council and the National Berry Crops Initiative.
The collaboration commits the companies to establish new specifications for packaging manufacturers. They will also encourage consumers to recycle the clamshells.
The groups will continue to compete and create economies of scale aimed at reducing costs and stimulate a closed-loop circular economy, meaning recycling berry clamshells will make new berry clamshells, the release states.
In California, berry clamshells made of PET are among the top food packaging products using post-consumer recycled content — with berry clamshells typically containing more than 50 percent recycled content. Most states do not support the recycling of thermoformed PET, but already recycle PET bottles.
Craig Snedden, president of Direct Pack Inc., said the trick to getting clamshells as recyclable as PET bottles is all in the label.
"If we work with our growers to do the same thing the beverage industry did, which is transitioning to a [biaxially oriented polypropylene] wash away label, then we have full recyclability," he said. "We saw the same transition take place in the early to mid-'90s with beverage bottles transitioning from paper-based labels to the wash away BOPP labels. There's no reason that can't happen now."
Snedden described California's recycling program as "full circle" but not closed loop. He will go to a materials recycling facility, go through the bales and buy back the thermoformed clamshells. His company then takes the post-consumer PET bales through Direct Pack Recycling's wash line, then extrudes new sheet and thermoforms the new berry shipping containers. The package ends up containing a percentage of PET from post-consumer bottle resin and the berry containers.