How to Create Plastic-Free Freezer Packaging
The hot, summer months are upon us in the UK and with the temperatures expected to soar again for another year, who can resist a cheeky ice lolly to help cool down? At Greyhound Box, that’s got us thinking about the amount of plastic that frozen foods, like ice lollies, come wrapped in.
Current figures show that by 2040, we can expect to see 29 million tonnes of plastic waste in aquatic ecosystems. The amount of plastic pollution in the environment is alarming and the primary culprit is single-use plastic packaging. However, some brands within the FMCG sector are striving to eliminate this factor and we want to put a stop to this before it’s too late! So, join us for a dive into all-things frozen foods and the changes that could be made to create a freezer free from plastic packaging.
The Excessive Plastic Packaging Problem
Typically, packaging for frozen foods includes cardboard, laminate paper, and lots of plastics. One of the most popular plastic options for frozen food packaging is shrink film, the plastic coating on frozen food boxes that’s designed to protect products from the chilly temperatures they’re stored at. Shrink film protects the products inside against spoilage and moisture thanks to its waterproof characteristics. Alternatively, some cardboard boxes can be coated with wax which also offer resistance to grease and oil. Either way, both materials bring challenges for recycling!
Another necessity for the packaging is that it needs to be strong and flexible so it can accommodate a food product expanding as it freezes. That’s why plastic, like film, has been the go-to for so long. It’s quite a job finding a material that ticks all those boxes!
What Change is Happening?
With statistics alerting us to the trouble ahead with plastic pollution, it’s great to see frozen food giants already making a conscious effort to change their packaging. And there’s no bigger name in the frozen food industry than Birds Eye. As of 2020, they’ve committed to removing 379 tonnes of unrecyclable waste from the market annually – their latest update (from 2021) revealed that 91.4% of their consumer packaging is recyclable.
In the same year, Birds Eye swapped the materials used for their resealable bags of vegetables for recyclable ones. And now, most of the bagged packaging waste from their bagged products, like Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire Puddings and Goodfella’s Pizzas, can be taken into most large supermarkets and recycled there. We all know that reducing plastic waste is a group effort, so it’s great to see both food giants and big supermarkets leading the way on these types of initiatives.
But, there’s a slight catch. Customers still have to go to the effort of making another trip to the supermarket to recycle these inner materials. Could we do this from the comfort of our own homes?
Well, some smaller frozen brands are paving the way to making big differences. Lickalix produces plastic-free freezer packaging for ice lollies which is marine compostable. The packaging will organically decompose if it ends up in the ocean to avoid harming wildlife. It’s encouraging to see smaller companies taking responsibility for their environmental footprint and finding sustainable solutions!
How can we Create Plastic-Free Freezer Packaging?
At Greyhound Box, we’ve been thinking about what we can do to contribute to more sustainable frozen packaging. Specially coated paper and board to protect from moisture have been available for some time now, with new technologies pushing the boundaries of what is possible year to year. These coatings can be added to the inside or outside of the packaging to create a water-resistant barrier against leakages or even shielding from the elements. Some coatings can be incorporated into the board to act as an absorption layer, which is perfect for some food products. The packaging and the product are both protected without sacrificing the quality of either.
But that’s not all. To ensure our packaging can withstand extreme conditions and temperatures, we can produce solutions with materials that have been enhanced to increase their strength and durability, making them perfect for packaging meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. By doing this, we can create a plastic-free freezer.
Corrugated cardboard could also offer great potential for freezer packaging. We could use bespoke design to accommodate the expansion of products, providing extra space when needed. This way, any items that tend to expand during freezing will still be well-protected, without compromising the integrity of the packaging.
Taking the Next Steps
We understand that plastic is currently the go-to product due to its practicality. If we’re wanting to protect our environment, it’s time to swap as much of it as we can. There are certain adaptations out there to support a more sustainable industry, and we’re busy identifying materials that can potentially be replaced going forwards. We’d love you to come along for the ride!