Trays in recycled plastic: the solution to prevent food waste and support the recycling chain

November 14, 2022

The Corepla conference entitled “Recycling of Plastic Trays. An opportunity to Combat Waste and Promote Sustainability” was held on 9 November 2022 at the Ecomondo Expo. During the event, several academics and industrial experts came together to discuss the recycling of plastic trays.

Thanks to technological progress, the global population has increased dramatically in recent history. As we approach 8 billion people on the planet, the question arises, as well as the goal, to ensure that everyone has the resources needed to survive and food.
A long-standing obstacle to the latter is food waste, which today leads to enormous quantities of food being thrown away, even food that is still edible but not sellable. In this historical period, increasing the shelf-life of food products, i.e. the time between food production and consumption, is essential not only to prevent waste but also to prevent the incorrect disposal of thousands of tonnes of packaging.
One answer is to choose packaging that is safe for the product and has a low environmental impact. Green packaging solutions already exist. Several companies have been working for years to develop technologies capable of producing secondary raw materials that meet the highest quality and safety standards, such as those required by the food industry and large-scale retailers. For example, Coopbox offers its customers food containers made of R-XPS and R-PET that contain up to 50% of post-consumer recycled plastic and are 100% recyclable. These versatile trays are even suitable for transporting and storing fresh food.

However, replacing packaging made from raw materials with packaging made from green plastic polymers is unfortunately not an easy goal to reach for several reasons.
There are technical barriers: studies and investments are needed to make these innovative packs identical to more polluting ones so that there are no problems with the appearance of the products, which ultimately affects their saleability.
Secondly, there are economic barriers since, now more than ever, creating eco-friendly packaging requires energy-intensive processes, thus making it more expensive for the end consumer.
The most challenging obstacle is the one that sums up the first two, i.e. demand. It must increase exponentially in order to drive studies to further develop these items to meet future market needs and to optimise the production processes in order to decrease the costs of making them.

Coopbox strives to overcome these obstacles and offer its customers safe, high-quality food packaging that is extremely versatile and innovative. However, end consumers and large-scale retailers have to change their mentality in order to increase the consumption of packs that extend the shelf life and reduce the use of raw materials, which will become increasingly scarce due to constant population growth. Furthermore, consumers must continue to increase the quantities of products disposed of correctly so as to support the development of the recycling chain and ensure constant secondary raw materials even when the circular economy is finally put into practice.