Global produce company will debut the reusable plastic containers in the US, as it strives to decrease the environmental impact of banana packaging

Fresh Del Monte Produce has announced a strategic partnership with Arena Packaging, a leading packaging, design, and pooling company in North America, to introduce reusable plastic containers (RPCs) for bananas.

Del Monte Arena Packaging banana RPCs

Image: Business Wire

According to Del Monte, the invention aims to transform industry standards for the banana category, while significantly reducing food waste, carbon emissions, operational costs, and preserving the fruit’s health.

With the introduction of RPCs, banana shipments now enjoy improved airflow and extended shelf-life, the group outlined.

RPCs are not only reusable but also trackable, with a life cycle of up to 15 years. Each container will be reused approximately five times in a single year, and if damaged, individual parts can be collected, replaced, and repurposed.

“Making produce more sustainable for consumers, from the farms to the shelves, has always been a top priority for Fresh Del Monte,” said Hans Sauter, Fresh Del Monte’s chief sustainability officer and senior vice-president of R&D.

”By emphasising the reuse of packaging materials, we aim to reduce our environmental footprint, while promoting a circular economy of plastics,” he noted.

”After years of collaborative work, this groundbreaking RPC design not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but addresses fruit quality and pallet shipping density ensuring sustainable impact at every level of our supply chain.

“Alliances such as this one serve as another example of how we’re always seeking ways to improve our operations with business partnerships that strive to achieve a more sustainable future,” Sauter added.

Bananas have traditionally been shipped in single-use cardboard boxes, typically holding up to 40 pounds per box.

These boxes are then transported to grocery stores, where bananas are air-stacked in the back room, which Del Monte called a ”labour-intensive manual process that takes between 20 to 40 minutes to complete”.

Although cardboard is widely recyclable, developing options where packaging is reused is a first step in fighting climate change, the company outlined.

The implementation of the Arena Banana RPC has also resulted in an overall healthier-looking fruit out on the shelf, with less handling throughout the supply chain, it said.

“Our collaboration with Fresh Del Monte Produce is set to redefine the entire process of packing, shipping, ripening, storing, and merchandising bananas,” said Tony Arena, founder and CEO of Arena Packaging. ”This marks a significant milestone in our shared mission to establish a more sustainable and circular packaging system.”

“Arena Packaging’s innovative banana RPC is the result of years of dedicated design and validation supported by industry veteran Jim Vangelos and Fresh Del Monte’s sales vice-president, Mike Naftel and senior director of global packaging, Christian Salnars.

”The Arena Banana RPC reduces the carbon footprint by 90 per cent over a traditional corrugated banana carton.”

The RPCs arrived at retail stores in the South Texas region of the US in October, offering consumers an ”eco-friendly and convenient way to enjoy their favourite fruit”.