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Original Publication: The Green Economy, (24 September 2009). http://www.thegreeneconomy.com/packaging-for-the-future/
Removing waxed cardboard from the waste stream is a huge issue, and is currently being solved by a coalition between Global Green, Hunt’s Point in New York City, Mountaire Farms, and Interstate Container.
Doing Good Business
The project has been such a success that Mountaire Farms is planning to transition its entire product line to recyclable boxes by the end of the 2010 calendar year.
Larry Saywell, VP Marketing, said that Mountaire Farms had reduced costs because the new boxes are smaller, resulting in smaller payloads. But he said the biggest unexpected benefit is in employee moral. This may be partly due to the fact that the recyclable boxes help create an even cleaner, dryer and safer work environment.
However, the big win for Saywell - and for the operations people - is the opportunity to contribute to the long term sustainability of both the business and the agricultural land that surrounds Mountaire’s operations.
“Because we’re an agricultural company, we have an obligation to take care of the earth. In order to sustain our business, we need to have good soil, clean water, and clean air to grow our crops and raise our chickens. It is all part of our way of being.”Partnering for New Ideas
The project, a combined effort between Hunt’s Point, Interstate Container, Mountaire Farms (the sixth largest poultry company) and Global Green has been a year in the making. Starting with trials at Hunt’s Point, the boxes were tested under the harsh conditions of the largest food distribution center in the world, where tons of pallets loaded with crates of perishables pass through daily.
While sounding to some like a big “ho-hum”, this is a critical step in handling boxes that are coated with wax to prevent them becoming saturated with water and animal products. Waxed boxes gum up recycling machines, so can’t be co-mingled with regular cardboard.
Solutions are hard to come by, according to Jennifer McDonnell, who was Whole Foods’ Green Mission Specialist for the Northeast Region. She added that she had talked with some store owners who, faced with the problem, simply didn’t recycle any cardboard in order to avoid the additional costs and hassle of training and storage, so that staff could separate different kinds of cardboard.
As Pete Bugas, the National Account Manager for Interstate Container, added, “This a major step to permanently remove waxed boxes throughout the supply chain in the United States.”
The new packaging also transitions from ice packs to MAP (Modified Atmosphere Packaging), a process that prolongs the shelf-life of fresh or minimally processed foods by slowing the natural deterioration of produce, most commonly by removing most or all the oxygen. This means a reduction in the size of the box and the elimination of an inner plastic bag leading to overall water, energy, and greenhouse gas savings.
Annie White, Director of Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery added that just achieving 100% recyclable packaging at Hunt’s Point would divert over 30,000 tons/yr of corrugated from the landfill. “That’s like taking another 19,000 cars off the road.” To put that in perspective, on any day, the Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) traveling through Times Square is 42,000. Removing 19,000 of those would mean about 45% less carbon and more room for chairs on Broadway and 42nd.
The Hunt’s Point Demonstration Project is one of several of Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery projects dedicated to generating business value through creating a sustainable, zero waste New York City. Founded in 1993 by activist and philanthropist Diane Meyer Simon, Global Green is the American Arm of Green Cross International (GCI), created by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev to foster a global value shift toward a sustainable and secure future by reconnecting humanity with the environment.
The Coalition for Resource Recovery is a project of Global Green USA, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit organization. Global Green works to create sustainable urban environments and combat global warming through a unique cross-cutting approach that merges innovative research, technical assistance, cutting-edge community based projects and targeted education and outreach.
Interstate Container is a member of Interstate Resources, Inc., member of INDEVCO Group.