A new form of fully compostable paper packaging is being explored by fresh produce suppliers for use with potatoes and potentially a range of other produce.
The ventilated packaging known as CartoPaper is already being used by supermarkets in northern Europe and could soon replace standard pillow pack plastic bags in products from potatoes to onions to avocados.
According to Dutch firm van der Windt, which makes the packaging, the paper bags absorb water from the produce they hold, as well as protecting them from the light and creating a suitable microclimate to boost shelf life.
Lincolnshire-based machinery manufacturer Gainsborough Industrial Controls is experimenting with the environmentally-friendly packaging and has meetings lined up with several fresh produce suppliers in the next month amid an industry-wide drive to limit the use of single-use plastics and switch to recyclable materials.
Managing director Andy Beal welcomed the switch, saying heightened consumer awareness meant it was now in the industry’s interest to start using materials that are recyclable, resuable and compostable. As a result, millions of pounds is being invested by packaging companies and suppliers to find sustainable alternatives.
Several retailers have already made pledges to reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging, with Iceland kicking things off by promising to make its own-brand products plastic-free by the end of 2023.
Despite this, a notable downside of paper packaging is that it can cost significantly more than plastic, potentially necessitating an increase in retail prices. Beal expects some paper packaging to only be adopted by supermarkets for their premium lines, however going forward he sees big opportunities in developing plastic packaging that is fully recyclable.
“One day I’m sure that all plastic packaging will be recyclable,” he said. “It’ll be minced up and made into park benches, road cones and so on. Technology will sort it and then paper will go.
“The downside of paper is that if we all suddenly switch to paper packaging, there won’t be enough trees in northern Europe to satisfy demand. Making paper uses vaste amounts of water and energy, so plastic isn’t going to go away.”