Why it’s critical for food companies to choose sustainable packaging

Photo courtesy of Sustana
Every day, 2.2 million pounds of waste paper converge on Sustana recycling mills, where we sort and process it into more than 230,000 tons of post-consumer recycled fiber per year.

This article is sponsored by Sustana.

The U.S. is in the midst of an increasingly sophisticated and urgent conversation about environmental damage from single-use plastics and containers. Restaurant operators and food distributors, in particular, are thinking more about how sustainable packaging can help to address food-related social and environmental issues while delivering a positive brand impact.

While plastics and plastic packaging are an integral part of the global economy and provide it with many benefits, their typically linear value chains entail significant drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. In a business-as-usual scenario, projected growth in plastics production could lead by 2050 to the oceans' containing more plastics than fish, and the entire plastics industry could consume 20 percent of total oil production and 15 percent of the annual carbon budget.

Sustainable food packaging and brand identity

Sustana aims to be a part of the solution. We promote and apply sustainable manufacturing and business practices to deliver premium, eco-friendly recycled fibers to customers across North America. One such product is EnviroLife, the only 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber in North America that is FDA-compliant for use in direct food contact packaging under all conditions of use.

For restaurants looking to differentiate their brand and attract environmentally conscious consumers, packaging is an excellent way to demonstrate concern for the earth while materially reducing environmental impact. Sustana recognizes that food packaging is becoming another way to articulate a company’s values, and to show its commitment to the environment and to the communities in which it operates.

As we dialogue with end users, we see how successful food and beverage companies know that customers develop a relationship with their product packaging. A customer will have half an hour with that coffee cup, for instance. It might have their name on it with logos and design. This provides a tangible way for a customer to look at that and feel good about the choice they made. They’ll notice that it’s not disposable, it’s reusable. This object transmits the company’s values in a very real way. The customer will feel good about having contributed.

McDonald’s recent announcement that it will source all packaging from recycled, renewable or certified sources by 2025 highlights the significant shift underway in the market. Starbucks’ announcement earlier this year that it aims to launch a fully recyclable and compostable coffee cup within three years further emphasizes the transition. 

Packaging for a circular economy

According to a third-party Life Cycle Analysis, EnviroLife’s environmental impact is much lower than that of generic North American virgin fiber. Our patented manufacturing process eliminates optical brightening agents, resulting in a product that is suitable for food contact with no need for a barrier or coating. Because of this treatment, EnviroLife is free from contaminants that are present in most other post-consumer fibers.

Straight from production, EnviroLife is ready to be used in all food packaging applications, including takeaway containers, soup containers, coffee and tea cups, coffee bags, cheese-and-meat interleaving paper and bread bags. EnviroLife is also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. 

Sustana’s Chairman and CEO, Fabian de Armas, speaks to EnviroLife’s unique environmental benefits: “EnviroLife is the only 100 percent recycled fiber in North America that provides a zero-fluorescence solution and meets FDA requirements for direct food contact without the need for a barrier. Sustana provides its clients with premium products and environmentally sustainable solutions whose impacts are measurable. We conduct a third-party-verified analysis of the impact of using our products on the environment in terms of overall carbon footprint; it’s an entire life cycle analysis for our products. Sustana is the only producer that does this, and we’re proud of that.”

Shrinking environmental footprint

Sustana transforms post-consumer waste paper into premium recycled fiber, with state-of-the-art recycling mills in De Pere, Wisconsin, and Lévis, Quebec. Every day, 2.2 million pounds of waste paper converge on Sustana recycling mills, where we sort and process it into more than 230,000 tons of post-consumer recycled fiber per year. By recycling waste paper, the mills save enough energy to power 85,000 average U.S. homes for one year.

EnviroLife’s low environmental impact helps food-serving brands meet their sustainability goals, and answer the growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products. We recognize that when it comes to packaging, how it’s created and where it originates have become just as important as looks and function.