Australia is following a trend first seen in Europe where increasing attention has focussed on environmental credentials behind food packaging.
As identified briefly in a Beef Central article last week, Coles Supermarkets is the first major Australian retailer to move into bio-degradable ‘green’ tray packs in some of its fresh beef items, including mince.
Pioneering Australian packaging manufacturer Plantic Technologies has reached a commercial supply agreement with Coles for the use of its Plantic eco-Plastic trays products.
Coles expects to use more than 95 million of the trays in 2012 alone, with further expansion likely.
The deal represents a major breakthrough for Plantic Technologies, which will quadruple its manufacturing capabilities at its Melbourne factory.
Federal minister for industry, innovation and climate change Greg Combet, officially opened the expanded Plantic facility recently.
The facility will produce eco-Plastic, an advanced, cost-competitive bio-plastic with ultra-high barrier properties, designed to improve the carbon footprint of fresh food packaging.
The fully bio-degradable material is made from corn starch derivatives using up to 80 percent certified renewable material.
Mr Combet said the occasion was a milestone for green business innovation.
“Plantic Technologies was born out of a Government-funded research project in 2000 which invited the clean technology industry to collaboratively find a solution to alternative food packaging,” he said.
The commercialisation of such research had led to innovative companies like Plantic Technologies, he said.
Coles’ general manager meat, delicatessen and dairy, Allister Watson, said the partnership was another example of Coles’ support for innovative Australian manufacturers.
“We’re very pleased to be working with Plantic, and it’s gratifying to see our partnership support their expansion into export markets,” Mr Watson said.
“We’ve been using the eco-Plastic trays on a number of lines across our pre-packed beef, veal, lamb and sausage products since late 2011. We expect that more than 95 million of the trays will be bought by our customers in 2012.”
“Plantic’s eco-Plastic tray is a quality product that has real business and environmental benefits, and Coles will continue to look at other opportunities to expand the use of the technology across our meat range,” Mr Watson said.
Plantic chief executive officer Brendan Morris said the environmental impact of Coles switching to eco-Plastic, once quantified, would be significant.
“Our life cycle assessment shows that, over the course of 12 months, the impact of Coles adopting the trays will save more than 13 million KwH of energy, the equivalent of powering over 2000 Australian homes. It will also cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5000 tonnes, which is equal to planting more than 750,000 trees,” he said.
Mr Morris said eco-Plastic had been designed to meet the growing world demand for a more sustainable approach to plastics technology, based on a high content of renewable material that will reduce carbon emissions and deliver exceptional performance characteristics.
“The benefits are compelling and this is the first packaging product globally to contain up to 80pc renewable content, using 25pc less energy compared to conventional polymers, and delivering ultra-high barrier performance,” he said.
Eco-Plastic requires no investment in new processing or packaging technology and is a simple ‘drop-in replacement’ for a range of traditional plastics used in ultra-high barrier packaging.
The new manufacturing facility will enable Plantic to step-up production significantly and meet the growing demand from customers, Mr Morris said.
“In an increasingly carbon-conscious world, we are well positioned to meet a market need for a superior packaging offering that is cost-competitive and more environmentally friendly to produce,” he said.
“We look forward to further collaborations both domestically and internationally as we continue to raise awareness of the benefits of eco-Plastic. This new facility will enable us to meet demand as we meet the growing requirements of our customers,” he said.
About Plantic Technologies Ltd:
Plantic Technologies is based in Australia, where its head office, manufacturing, and research and development facilities are located. The company also has manufacturing operations in Germany and sales offices in the US and UK.
Plantic’s globally unique patented polymer technology is based on the use of high-amylose corn starch, a material derived from annual harvesting of specialized non-GM (hybrid) corn and supplied by Corn Products International.
The company provides a broad range of products in the barrier packaging sector and is already supplying major supermarket customers on three continents in applications such as fresh case-ready beef, pork, lamb and veal.
Plantic Technologies has won numerous international awards for their innovation in biodegradable plastics including DuPont’s Global Award for Innovation in 2006.