Industry News | January 28, 2010

Poultry Plant Converts to Recyclable Boxes

Global Green USA, Mountaire Farms, and Interstate Container announced completion of the conversion of the largest poultry plant in the U.S. to recyclable, wax-alternative boxes, thereby reducing costs and environmental impact, and assisting its customers in cost-effectively meeting their environmental goals.

At the International Poultry Expo, Global Green USA applauded Mountaire Farms and Interstate Container for their pioneering roles in reducing the environmental impact of wholesale transfer packaging as this innovation has the potential to influence the design of transfer packaging for all types of poultry, meat, produce, and seafood delivered to grocers and restaurants throughout the world. Global Green also called on the food packaging industry to convert to this newly achievable green standard.

In March 2009, Interstate and Mountaire Farms announced its plans to conduct trials of recyclable modified atmosphere packaging through Hunt’s Point, the world’s largest food distribution center, as part of Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery’s initiative to achieve 100 percent recyclable wholesale transfer packaging through the facility. Trials began pallet by pallet through Hunt’s Point’s harsh conditions and progressed to the truck load, and finally a two-week test where Mountaire product shipped solely in the Fibre Box Association (FBA)–Certified recyclable boxes. Upon successful completion of the pilot in September 2009, Mountaire announced its plan to not only convert its existing modified atmosphere packaging to recyclable boxes, but also to convert its ice packed product to modified atmosphere packaging to allow for a full transition of its entire product line to recyclable boxes. The full conversion of Mountaire’s first facility and the largest poultry plant in the U.S., located in Lumber Bridge, North Carolina, was completed in January.

“This is a first truly significant step towards replacing high-performance wax boxes throughout the difficult fresh food distribution channels,” says Interstate Container’s national account manager, Pete Bugas. “These boxes must withstand an extremely wet and challenging environment. Meeting the protocol criteria set forth by the FBA is a crucial step, and satisfying the rigors of the distribution channel in New York City is equally as tough. Ultimately, this fiber can now be recaptured instead of heading to a landfill where wax boxes are discarded. Interstate’s continuous environmental stewardship efforts remain a key part of our corporation’s DNA.”

The switch to FBA-certified recyclable packaging is only one component of the sustainable packaging transition. The switch in packaging methods from ice-packed poultry to modified atmosphere packaging will result in significant water and energy savings. The box size was reduced, all wax was eliminated from the box, reducing the use of corrugated and petroleum products. If all of the newly designed boxes were recycled, the greenhouse gas benefit from source reduction and recycling the boxes would be 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. In addition, the switch from ice-packed poultry to modified atmosphere packaging is estimated to save millions of gallons of water annually. Combined, these innovations also improve efficiency, streamline operations, and provide a safer work environment.

“Mountaire Farms is an agricultural company, and we are heavily dependent upon the earth’s natural resources for the continued success of our business,” says Larry Saywell, Mountaire Farms’ vice president of marketing and sales. “This project maintains and conserves these natural resources and is consistent with our company’s ‘way of being.’ We fully recognize the positive impact of this project’s success on the futures of our people, our farmers, our suppliers, our community, and our business.”

It is estimated that 1.5 million tons of un-recyclable, wax-coated corrugated boxes are discarded in the U.S. each year. If coated corrugated boxes were designed for recycling and recycled, a greenhouse gas savings of 5 million mtCO2e, equivalent to removing 1 million passenger vehicles from the road, would be realized, and U.S. grocers and restaurateurs could save $63 million annually in avoided disposal fees.

"To be competitive in today's world economy, our goal must be the sustainable use of materials," says Matt Hale, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. "Producing materials that can be recovered and reused at end of life helps us achieve this goal."

“Converting to transfer packaging certified as recyclable by the Fibre Box Association is a readily achievable step that industry and businesses can take to improve their environmental performance, enhance their service to customers, and improve their bottom line,” says Annie White, director of Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery. “Through dedication and perseverance, Interstate Container and Mountaire developed a cost-effective, high-performing offering that enhances service to its customers. Global Green calls on others in the poultry, meat, produce, and seafood industries to develop solutions for all food and packaging types, rapidly accelerating their use.”

Global Green USA’s sentiments were echoed in a statement provided by Chris Moyer, manager of the National Restaurant Association's Conserve program: “The delivery of poultry, seafood, and produce in recyclable boxes helps divert potentially reusable materials from landfills,” he said. “High performing, cost-competitive recyclable boxes also provide another way restaurateurs can improve their bottom line and meet environmental goals, which is what we advocate through our Conserve initiative. We encourage the use of packaging made of recycled materials and similar innovations that assist restaurants in greening their operations.”

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