Grocery retailers can now have their old returnable transit packaging (RTP) recycled into new high-quality food grade containers, thanks to Schoeller Allibert’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) accredited recycling process.
Schoeller Allibert is one of the first RTP manufacturers to gain EFSA-approval, which covers the recycling and remoulding processes at its facilities in Murcia, Spain; Monheim, Germany; and Hardenberg, Netherlands. The accredited process, which covers the recycling of food-grade high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) crates into new containers for food contact, has been developed in order to help retailers meet increasing stringent sustainability targets.
Traditionally, old or damaged plastic containers would be recycled for other use but could not re-enter the food supply chain as the plastic was not certified for direct contact with fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, or bakery products.
Ludo Gielen, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer at Schoeller Allibert, explains the process: “When food-grade crates need replacing due to age or damage, they can be returned to one of our three EFSA-approved facilities for recycling. Providing they have been used in a closed or controlled loop distribution system, which allows traceability of provenance, we can recycle used HDPE and PP material and mould into new crates for use in the food and fresh produce supply chain.
“Once returned to Schoeller Allibert they are first inspected then ground down into flakes which are washed and dried before being transferred to the injection moulding area. They then begin a second life as new food-contact approved crates and containers, meaning that retailers can replace their inefficient legacy fleet with brand new RTP containers with no pollution and no waste, creating a sustainable packaging cycle all within a matter of weeks. The carbon footprint of RTP is already much lower than disposable packaging and recycling RTP reduces this even further. In addition to their environmental benefits, recycled containers also cut the capital cost to the retailer.”
During the injection moulding process, the HDPE or PP flakes are heated to temperatures of up to 250ºC which removes the risk of any microbiological contamination as any remaining particles cannot survive at this heat, and no additional chemicals are used at any stage of the process to ensure a high-quality, hygienic end product.
The EFSA-approved recycling process is another industry first from Schoeller Allibert when it comes to sustainability, having already been the first packaging manufacturer to have the full life cycle carbon footprint of specific products determined and independently verified. This demonstrated that the Product Carbon Footprint of its RTP is on average 68 per cent less than cardboard – just 26 kgCO2e for each of its best-selling Maxinest units – which is further reduced when using recycled containers in the production process.
Ludo Gielen adds: “With our recycling facilities now accredited, we are able to offer products which enable grocery retailers to meet both sustainability targets and strict food safety and hygiene standards. The products moulded from recycled material are fully compliant with Article 4 of the EU Regulation 282/2008, providing our customers with a guarantee of safety and suitability for food contact.”