Greenpack – from farm to table – more vegetables and less packaging

The Norwegian research project «Greenpack – from farm to table – more vegetables and less packaging» was carried out between March 2013 and May 2015. The project was financed by the Nordic Research Council and BAMA as well as the participating partners Tommen Gram
(packaging supplier) and Total (petrochemical company and plastic raw material supplier). Lågen Gulrot was project owner. Three other pack houses participated: Lågen Potetpakkeri, Larvik Løk and Trøndergrønt. The research partners were Norner Innovation, Nofima and Ostfold Research.
The aim of the project was to produce a packaging for root vegetables and potatoes of MDO (mono directional oriented) film from PE (polyethylene) with increased strength and product protective properties.
An important part of the project was to document the resource efficiency and environmental impact of both the existing BOPP (Biaxially Oriented Polypropylene)-based packaging and the new solutions. This report presents the results of the waste generation and environmental assessments carried out in the projects.
The waste generation assessments were carried out by observation and interviews (at the packing plants), data reported by businesses (retail) and by a consumer survey. The environmental assessments were based on the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) methodology.
The results of the LCA confirm the results from other studies that due to efficient production the agricultural stage gives lower impacts than post-harvest stages. Storage, packaging and product wastage gave the most important contributions, in particular consumer wastage. The reason is that, for every unit of vegetable or potato that is discarded by the consumer, a similar amount must be grown, stored, packed, transported and prepared.
A MDO film was developed. The results from testing of this film showed increased strength compared to the PP film used in existing packaging. Different film perforations were also tested (different perforations techniques, number of perforations or size of holes). A packaging and storage trial revealed that a higher gas transmission rate in the packages due to more perforations compared to the film used today, gave a higher quality and longer microbial shelf life for the carrots. Thus, although a finished package solution was not completed at the end of the project, it is likely that such a solution would give less breakage and higher product quality and longer shelf life reducing product waste both in the retail and consumer stages.
The effect of the transition to new MDO-based packaging could not be fully evaluated because the new packaging solutions were not implemented in the market before the project was finished. Assessments of possible alternative scenarios with different packaging weight, retail wastage and consumer wastage did show that the largest improvements in environmental performance could be achieved by reducing wastage, especially consumer wastage. Reduction in packaging mass gives an improvement but lower than that achieved by reduced wastage. Wastage is thus more important than packaging minimisation.
Consequently, it can be concluded that if the innovations achieved in this project is used to make new packaging solutions for products on the market the results will be reduced wastage in retail and at the consumer and consequently improved environmental performance and resource efficiency.