Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Pizza, Water, Frozen Foods Find Plastic-Free Packaging

People of all ages are more aware of their impact on the planet’s limited resources and ecosystem health than ever before. Packaging is of particular concern, prompting this year’s Earth Day theme: end plastic pollution.

“I’d like more people to take care of the Earth,” said Yasmine, a 7th grader in the Garden Club at Montgomery Middle School in San Diego, CA. Fellow club member Daisy, also in 7th grade, agrees. “People can use more reusable bags instead of plastic,” Daisy added. “We have lots of reusable bags at home. When we do get plastic bags, we reuse them.”

Unfortunately, sustainable practices aren’t yet mainstream. Take water: the average American uses 167 plastic bottles every year, but 77% of those end up in landfills or the ocean. PATHWater is one company working to reduce plastic bottle use. The company sells bottled water in lightweight reusable aluminum bottles that it claims are twice as likely to be recycled as plastic. PATHWater further claims that for every bottle of PATHWater that is refilled, consumers are saving 5 plastic bottles from going to a landfill.

In addition to selling its product, PATHWater is supporting communities by participating in beach cleanups and partnering with schools such as Yasmine and Daisy’s, and counties in California that are banning plastic bottles. The reduction in plastic bottle use is also reportedly helping organizations save money on waste management.

“We want this generation to think differently about water,” PATHWater’s Gulshan Kumar said of its partnership with Sweetwater Schools. “We want to make it easier to switch from single-use plastic bottles to reusable aluminum.”

“PATHWater bottles look cool, and that makes kids want to use them,” Kumar added. “But there’s so much more behind it. A person with a reusable bottle is making a commitment to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.”

Meanwhile, World Centric has its focus on pizza days and take-out dinners. The company’s new PizzaRound packaging is made from 80 percent sugarcane and 20 percent bamboo, making it “tree-free” and compostable. Its round shape creates less packaging waste and requires less storage space, while other aspects of the design mean the container requires no liners, tissue or plastic tents are needed to keep the crust crisp, absorb grease or prevent damage to toppings.

“The container is made from 80 percent sugarcane. It’s the waste that’s left over [after sugar cane is harvested] which is typically burned,” Mark Marinozzi, VP of Marketing for World Centric, told Pizza Marketplace. “So you’re taking something that used to be burned or was literally thrown in a landfill and you’re turning it into useful material. ... Plus [PizzaRound containers] turn into soil in 90 days, so you can literally throw that in the composter.”

Marinozzi and the product’s co-creator — restaurateur, executive chef and World Pizza Champion Glenn Cybulski — admitted that the PizzaRound is pricier on a piece-by-piece basis than typical cardboard pizza containers, but said cost breakdowns showed that the extra cost is more than made up for through the money it saves in labor and storage space, as well as the retention of pizza temperature, flavor and crispness. Its materials provide improved heat retention and the design’s built-in grease grooves, air vents and raised ‘dimples’ help maintain crispness.

“One of the epiphanies that happened for all of us has to do with the fact that, not only is this material actually one of the best insulators and regulators of moisture ... but it doesn't [leave the pizza] tasting like cardboard,” Cybulski told Pizza Marketplace.

The PizzaRound eliminates the need to fold containers and uses nesting storage to reduce space needs for pizza boxes. Grooves in the bottom of the box also serve as cutting guides for staff.

“Basically your [traditional cardboard] boxes come in flats and you have to unwrap them, fold them, put your tissues in them. Then you have to put your liners in. So [with PizzaRound] there’s a measurable labor savings by not having to do that,” Cybulski explained. “Then those boxes, once they’re folded, are like 80 percent air, right? So they’re just taking up space then and eliminating that is key because in your restaurant you’re making money per square foot. Period. Every single square foot in that restaurant has got to be producing a dollar amount in revenue. Otherwise, you’re not going to make it.”

As added convenience features for consumers, the PizzaRound can also be used for reheating in the oven up to 450°F and has a removable top that doubles as a serving dish.

“Our focus for the past 14 years has been to help the foodservice industry reduce waste and improve its stewardship of the earth,” said Mark Stephany, SVP of Sales for World Centric. “Our new PizzaRound not only continues that initiative but also provides true functional innovations that make it possible to deliver a great quality pizza from the oven to the customer’s house.”

Pizza takeout and delivery restauranteurs can currently purchase PizzaRound for 12" and 14" pizzas, with a 16" size to be added later this year. Custom imprinting is also available.

For other food and temperature-sensitive goods, Woolcool has products covered. Founded in 2009, the company’s packaging solutions use wool in place of polystyrene, bubble wrap, gel packs or other non-recyclable insulating materials.

The packaging is made of 100 per cent felted sheep’s wool, a by-product from the necessary shearing process, which is then washed, scoured and sealed within a perforated polyethylene wrap. The wool is renewable and biodegradable, releasing nitrates back into the soil when composted, and can also be reused in a variety of ways including for home insulation, car lining or pet bedding.

“Proven to keep deliveries of chilled, ambient or frozen food products at the correct and safe temperature for at least 24 hours and in many cases, much longer, Woolcool has also been independently verified to maintain temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, such as life-saving vaccines, within critical distribution temperature ranges for over 120 hours,” said Josie Morris, Managing Director at Woolcool.

With 42 CPG giants so far having signed up to the new UK Plastics Pact, aiming to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025, solutions such as Woolcool’s offer a promising alternative, especially for food and pharmaceuticals. The company offers insulated pouches, envelopes and carrier bags, as well as fleece liners and box sets.

Resource reports that a number of high profile companies across Europe have already taken advantage of the wool packaging, including Unilever, Fortnum & Mason, John Lewis and the NHS-approved online medicine supplier Pharmacy2U. Woolcool has grown rapidly in the past five years, supported by more than £1 million of investment from the UK government through the national innovation agency Innovate UK.

The company claims that in one year it has prevented the equivalent of 75 Olympic swimming pools full of polystyrene going to landfill through companies switching to its wool packaging, an achievement that has been recognized by a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation. The Queen’s Awards are an annual award for outstanding achievement by UK business in the four categories of innovation, international trade, sustainable development and promoting opportunity through social mobility. For her part, Queen Elizabeth has banned single-use plastics from Buckingham Palace.


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