New frozen meal tray design to eliminate 3.6 million kg of plastic waste

Posted by James Ferre on 20th August 2008

ConAgra Foods, a leading North American packaged food company, has reported that they are the first company in North America to incorporate post-consumer recycled plastic in their frozen meal trays, which will divert approximately 8 million pounds (about 3.6 million kg) of plastic from landfills to the recycling stream annually.

ConAgra Foods has begun to use between 30 percent and 40 percent post-consumer recycled plastic in nearly all of its frozen meal trays for Healthy Choice, Banquet, Kid Cuisine and Marie Callender’s products. Most frozen meal trays are made of crystallized PET plastic, a material that uses only newly produced plastics and that requires more energy and resources to produce.

Post-consumer recycled plastic, on the other hand, is packaging that has been used by consumers that primarily is sent to landfills, such as plastic bottles. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only about 30 percent of plastic soda bottles are recycled each year. Through these new meal trays, ConAgra Foods will use at least 8 million pounds of post-consumer recycled plastic annually.

ConAgra Foods partnered with Associated Packaging Technologies to utilise a new technology that cleans recycled plastic for use as a component in frozen meal trays. Older plastic technologies limited food companies to using only new plastic to comply with regulations for direct food contact materials. The new ultra-clean processing technology makes it safe for consumers to eat the prepared food directly from the frozen meal trays, according to ConAgra. The new trays have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as direct food contact materials.

“Our commitment to innovation means we are looking at all aspects of our products as we consider new ways to improve them, including finding ways to be more environmentally responsible,” said Gail Tavill, ConAgra Foods vice president, Sustainability. “As a leading packaged foods company, ConAgra Foods can make a positive impact on the environment by finding new ways to reduce waste, and our new frozen meal trays with post-consumer recycled plastic will ensure that the equivalent of 128 million 20-ounce plastic bottles won’t go to landfills each year.”

By incorporating post-consumer recycled plastic in its frozen meal trays, ConAgra Foods reports they will be able to:

— Eliminate about 3.6 million kg of plastic from going to landfills, which is the equivalent of approximately 128 million 20-ounce plastic bottles, per year.

— Save 236 million BTUs of energy – enough energy to run 2,593 average American homes for one year.

— Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15,200 tons of CO2 per year, which is the same as taking nearly 2,000 cars off the road each year.