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Sustainable packaging in the U.S.A

In 2018, Sandra Somford-Pannekeet and her family emigrated to the U.S., to start-up JASA’s American branch. Sandra’s mission is to focus on the growing demand for ready to eat packaging in the U.S. After JASA’s initial start-up, another consumer’s request revealed itself: Sandra noticed that similar to Europe, American consumers increasingly prefer sustainable packaging. Packaging companies more and more inquire about the options and solutions JASA has to offer in the field of sustainable (paper) packaging.

Which differences are there between the U.S. and Europe when it comes to packaging? Which developments and trends are emerging? What about paper packaging and recycling? We will tell you all about it in this blog post.

America versus Europe: legislation

There are Noticeable differences in legislation between the US and Europe in regards to packaging. “Here, in the U.S., you still find packaging which in Europe has been banned, like laminated plastic packaging that cannot be recycled. This type of packaging can be used for one purpose and one time only. After use, it ends up in incinerating ovens.” In Europe, this type of packaging is since long prohibited, yet in the U.S., it is still marketed as an up-to-date packaging material.

Appel clamshell verpakking (1)
sleeve voor appels

America versus Europe: big and small

Next to the material of which packaging is made, there are also noticeable differences in size. “In the U.S., people still tend to buy large quantities at once. In addition, American refrigerators have a larger capacity compared to European refrigerators; the packaging is tailored to these larger dimensions.” Hence, Packaging in the U.S. is considerably bigger than what we are used to in Europe. Currently, we notice that oversized packaging is trending towards smaller packaging. However, this considerably varies per region. “ready to eat packaging is presently trending, especially in bigger cities where more people tend to shop based on daily-needs. Outside the big cities, the trend is more often to get groceries in for the week, which leads to the need for more oversized packaging. In the Netherlands, the regional differences are not so distinct, while here in the U.S., they are evidently present.

America versus Europe: plastic bags

In the Netherlands, as well as the other European countries, strict policies govern the use of plastic and waste. The earlier mentioned ban on laminated plastic packaging is not a solitary act. Since 2016 the Netherlands brought a law into effect forbidding the distribution of free plastic bags, such to prevent street-waste, fight the ocean’s plastic soup and avoid the waste of natural resources and raw materials. Disposable plastic will be banned altogether by 2021 throughout Europe. In the U.S., the status quo is different. “emerging supermarket chains Aldi and Lidl are conscious about the environment and therefore do not hand out plastic bags. The customer’s choices are to take a cardboard box or bring their own shopping bag. American consumers still have to get used to this concept as in the majority of the American supermarkets, free plastic bags are still provided to customers. These plastic bags are ultra-thin and tear easily, a far cry from sustainable.” Yet, American consumers are getting more and more used to the sustainable packaging trend. According to Sandra, this development may see rapid growth. “Many supermarkets nowadays offer a choice between plastic and paper shopping bags while they stimulate customers to bring their own shopping bags. To my mind, America will take major steps forward in the next coming years. I am convinced that today’s consumer demands will force the industry into environmental awareness and thinking green.”

America: giant steps towards sustainability

All things considered, it is to be anticipated that the U.S. will take a big step forward towards sustainable packaging. “A good example is, for instance, apple packaging. Currently, apples are packed in a costly and environmentally unfriendly pouch. However, the industry is investigating the possibilities to change this packaging for a paper or cardboard alternative. This will constitute a big step forward. In Europe, we witnessed smaller steps at a time. By the same token, we have to admit that the overall knowledge in regards to recycling and sustainability cannot yet be compared to the European level of know-how. However, it will not stand in the way of the upcoming sustainability developments.”

Sustainability trend

Sustainable packaging trends are initiated by various supermarkets as well as consumers. “A couple of supermarket chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have set their focus on biological food, sustainability, less waste, and use plastics only when no other alternative is available. Likewise, consumers make a choice to opt for sustainable packaging too.” Being the product leader in the field of paper packaging for vegetables and fruits, JASA is in the right party to assist the current market developments in America. “The demand for paper packaging is noticeably on the rise as the sustainable alternative for plastic.” Also, neighboring country Canada, where JASA is also active, addresses the same question. “Canada differs from the U.S., in the sense that Canada came up with an action plan in search of alternatives for the use of single-use plastic and eliminating the use of problem plastics.

The Canadian action plan

The Canadian produce industry is actively engaged with sustainable packaging solutions. In this respect, solutions are sought after to reduce the total packaging weight, as well as the search for alternative, easily recyclable materials, is ongoing. JASA’s paper packaging solutions fit in nicely with these goals.

Plastics Packaging Working Group

The CPMA’s Plastics Packaging Working Group was founded in May 2019. This organization is in search of a strategy to annihilate the use of plastics in the production industry.

The Canadian strategy on zero plastics states:

“to accomplish a circular economy for plastics, actions need to be taken in many fields. In some instances, this concerns the improvement of the current performance; in other cases, complete change is necessary where new practices and behaviors must be implemented.”

The organization outlined the following goals:

  • Identifying both the challenges and the changes for the production industry as well as to partake in diminishing plastic waste in Canada and globally.
  • Investigating new opportunities, including those innovations which eliminate single-use plastic.
  • To make sure that plastic used in the produce industry is reusable, recyclable, or compostable while focusing on the need for more and better recycling options.
  • Communicating the interactions between safeguarding food quality and food safety and minimizing the environmental impact of plastic packaging. (source: Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment - Nov.2018).
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America: differences in recycling per county

In Canada, the produce industry is paving the way towards a sustainable and recycling packaging industry. In America, recycling is on the agenda as well, next to developing strategies towards more sustainable packaging. Recycling in the U.S. is, however, impeded by the unclear and disparate rules that differ per county. “I can, for instance, not throw my plastic bags in our recycling bin because the recycling machine cannot handle this. But this applies to my county, Chesterfield (Richmond), VA. It is very well possible that in other counties, plastic bags can be recycled.” All in all, a lot is unclear on the subject of recycling. “In the Netherlands, we grew up with recycling, and the rules are lucid and similar. Once every two weeks we place our old papers on the curb to be collected, and our glass bottles are deposited into glass recycling dumpsters. Here in the U.S., the rules differ; a pet bottle can be thrown into a recycle-bin, but a plastic bag cannot.” Even paper is often not recycled. “A lot of the recycling rules are ambiguous, leading to cardboard boxes to be thrown out with other waste. This, while cardboard is easily recognizable as a recyclable material!”

Bag-2-Paper

Growing popularity for paper packaging

Despite all this, paper packaging grows in popularity. “we notice an incredible demand for paper! During our trade shows both in the U.S. and Europe, quite the amount of Canadian and American visitors in search of an alternative for plastic packaging came to our stand with their questions. Obviously, a good sign.”  As the market leader in paper packaging, JASA can offer superb alternatives for plastic packaging. Paper-Vento®, Semoulin Packaging, cartPaper. All of those are paper packaging – with or without sealing – which are currently available and can be processed on JASA’s vertical packaging machines. Paper packaging is truly valued these days. “By using paper packaging for your product, you are among the first to show your concern for the environment. It is even expected that sales will increase when paper is used as the packing material. Our customers are suppliers for supermarkets, they are eager to show off their new products to the supermarkets. Sustainability is one of the topics addressed by supermarkets to keep their customers satisfied. With paper packaging, you just can’t miss!

The influence of the corona-virus on packaging

A big difference between the U.S. and the Netherlands is the amount of unpackaged fresh produce. “In the Dutch supermarkets, you can find lots of rinsed and ready-to-eat produce packed in small portions and available on the shelves. Here, in the U.S., fresh produce is usually found unpackaged on the shelves. Cut vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and salads are available, but that is about it.” In the supermarkets here in the U.S., large amounts of shelves are filled with, e.g., unpackaged apples. Customers can pick the ones they like, which by the same token means they can also place them back, which does not fit in with the current corona policies. “Customers who foresee that consumers will opt for packaged products have addressed their packaging questions to us. Everybody here is rather wary about the corona-virus.”

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JASA’s perfect timing

The currently growing demand for ready to eat packaging and sustainable paper packaging in the U.S. supports JASA’s decision to establish a branch in the U.S. “We really came at the right time. I think the U.S. is ready to catch up with Europe when it comes to modern and sustainable packaging methods. In Europe, the rules and regulations are ahead of those in the U.S., but I think America will soon catch up in that area. JASA has the answers and solutions readily available to the increasing demand for sustainable packaging. The shift towards sustainable packaging methods was a pleasant surprise for us at JASA. “Our main reason to open up a branch in America is based on the growing demand for smaller packaging for the produce industry. A specialty of JASA in which we have years of experience. We did not expect the present-day demand for sustainable packaging, which of course, we are very happy with!”

Are you interested in our packaging solutions and curious about what we can do for you? Would you like more information about the possibilities with paper packaging? Please contact us, we are happy to answer all your questions.

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JASA Packaging Solutions stands for innovation, quality and flexible packaging machines. We are your specialist partner in the development of vertical packaging machines, Sleevers, and complete weighing and packaging lines.

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