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Fresh-cut salad gets 100% rPET clamshell

Earthbound_Farm.jpgOrganic food marketer Earthbound Farm of San Juan Bautista, CA, has announced what it says is a fresh cut salad-industry first: All of its plastic clamshell packages are now being made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) supplied by Packaging Plus. America’s largest grower of organic produce, Earthbound Farm is celebrating its 25th anniversary with this significant move, emphasizing its commitment to protecting the environment.

Virgin PET is made primarily from natural gas feedstock, whereas rPET is made from previously used plastic products such as soda or water bottles that would otherwise end up in landfills. According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), rPET materials use significantly less energy and water to produce than virgin plastic and result in lower greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste.

PCR-PET-lifecycle-lg.jpgBased on Earthbound Farm’s annual usage of rigid PET plastic in 2008, the company’s conversion to 100% rPET for clamshell packaging will conserve 424,000 million BTUs and 68,307 gallons of water, as well as eliminate 16,191 tons of carbon dioxide and divert 1.3 million pounds of solid waste from landfills.

“We started farming organically because we were concerned about the personal and environmental health effects of farming with chemicals,” says Myra Goodman, co-founder and executive vice president of Earthbound Farm. “Organic farming has really positive effects, but we know we have to do more. More ecological packaging is an important next step; one we hope others will soon follow.”

Kids’ quotes to decorate labels
To both celebrate its 25th anniversary and increase awareness of the ecological benefits of PCR packaging, Earthbound Farm is launching a redesigned label on its salad greens packages, calling out the post-consumer content of the packaging. The company is also launching a Web-based contest seeking quotes from children for the inside of its clamshell salad labels. Kids will be encouraged to submit quotes thanking those who purchase organic for helping protect the future. In return, the company will invest in the children’s future: The authors of those quotes chosen to be printed on Earthbound Farm salad labels will be awarded a $500 U.S. savings bond, and a $500 donation will be made in their name to an environmental charity of their choice.

“Our decision to switch to post-consumer recycled packaging is one of many steps we have taken on our long journey of challenging the industrial status quo,” says Chad Smith, manager of Earthbound Farm’s sustainability initiatives. “There are many opportunities to create a larger U.S. market for PCR materials, which is essential to reducing what we’re putting in landfills. We hope that other companies will see the value in adopting packaging solutions with PCR content and that consumers will make the decision to seek out PCR packaging when shopping. Working in tandem, these steps will create the manufacturing demand needed for post consumer recycled materials.”

Room for improvement with PET recycling
California’s Rigid Plastics Packaging Container Law requires the use of 25% of PCR content in all rigid plastic packaging of nonfood products. While PET is the most recycled plastic, recycling statistics demonstrate how much better Americans could be doing with recycling their valuable wastes.

According the Environmental Protection Agency, there was nearly 6 billion pounds of PET packaging waste generated in 2007 (the most recent year for these stats), and only 23% was recycled into new products, leaving over 4.5 billion pounds of PET to languish in landfills. If rPET were more in demand for packaging and other uses, much more would be diverted from landfills and into other uses, Earthbound believes.

“We think a lot about where packaging goes after its useful life,” says SPC director Anne Johnson. “We’re interested in developing closed loops for these materials. What is needed is a recycling infrastructure that can handle PET in all its forms so that those materials can be collected and used again and again. Earthbound Farm’s PCR PET initiative is a perfect example of how to get the ball rolling in the right direction. We hope to see more companies make that commitment, creating a market for these materials, which is what it will take to keep PET out of landfills and in the recycling stream.”

For more information on Earthbound Farm’s initiative, visit this page on its Web site dedicated to the new packaging.

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