A packaging company and a resin manufacturer have partnered to give a ‘very uncommon second life’ to polystyrene in food packaging.
Recovered polystyrene products will be collected and turned into resin by US-based NextLife, for use by packaging manufacturer, Cascades, in its foam trays for meat packaging.
By the end of this year, Cascades plan to launch a range of expanded polystyrene trays of various sizes based on industry need and made with the post-consumer content.
Julie Loyer, communications and sustainable development officer at Cascades Speciality Products Group, told FoodProductionDaily.com turning recyclable polystyrene into foam food packaging is ‘very uncommon’ within the industry.
“It is very uncommon because of the steps involved, including cleaning and transportation of the post-consumer polystyrene.
“When [the polystyrene] is collected the cleaning of the material is the main problem as it can’t be used if it’s dirty and sometimes it isn’t recycled at all.
“Transportation is the second issue, with sorting and getting it to where we need it and then ensuring it makes business sense are the main challenges we face and are finding solutions to.”
The recovered post-consumer material is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food contact applications.
Cascades is currently testing the materials which will initially be available in North America but will be extended based on demand.
The Canada-based firm said they are conducting testing to see how it reacts with their machines, the property of the product and shelf-life quality.
Asked about the issues of using recycled polystyrene in food packaging, Loyer added:“Recycled content is not as stable as virgin content but it is FDA approved and we know the gaps and problems in the industry, so we know where to look and we are continuously testing to ensure product quality.
“We did a life cycle analysis last year to measure the raw material and its environmental footprint and we wanted to go further than only offering rPET, believing we could make it happen to add recycled into other materials.”
Jillian Conway, director of sales and marketing at NextLife, told this publication there was room in the market to recycle more.
“There is a lot of interest in sustainability and most industries are working towards more sustainable options in regards to their products and company practices, bringing sustainability to the forefront.
“Currently, at our Frankfort facility, we produce 35m pounds annually of PE (polyethylene), PP (polypropylene) and PS (polystyrene) and a fraction of this will be designated to Cascades depending on their demand.”
When asked how about the sourcing process, Conway added: “We will source the polystyrene domestically through a variety of sources such as retail and distribution.”