McDonald’s Aims For Fully Recycled Packaging By 2025

Intent on being part of the solution, fast food giant McDonald’s has vowed to use sustainable packaging in 100% of its stores by 2025.  Currently only 10% of the 37,000 McDonald’s locations worldwide use recycled packaging for their food products, but they plan get all items like bags, straws, wrappers and cups from recycled or renewable materials, up from half currently.

Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s chief supply chain and sustainability officer, says that customers number one demand was to make packaging more environmentally friendly.  In the UK, McDonald’s has already done away with Styrofoam packaging and more than 1,000 restaurants now have recycle bins. Even so, the world’s biggest restaurant chain said some restaurants might struggle to recycle packaging by 2025 due to varying infrastructure, regulations and customer behavior around the world.

McDonald’s is already taking large steps to achieve their goals, aiming for all its paper and card packaging, such as burger boxes or paper bags, to come from recycled or certified sources where no deforestation occurs by 2020.  Hopefully more fast food chains will take a page out of McDonald’s environmentally friendly book and work to achieve similar goals.

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The Packaging Trends You Can Expect To See In 2018

There are five major packaging trends you can expect to see as we move into the new year, according to Mintel, a major market research firm. You can expect to see more minimalistic designs, packages that keeps marine conservation in mind, reinvigorated packaging for e-commerce, and more!

According to David Luttenberger, Global Packaging Director at Mintel, “Our packaging trends for 2018 reflect the most current and forward-looking consumer attitudes, actions, and purchasing behaviors in both global and local markets. Such trends as those we see emerging in e-commerce packaging have stories that are just now being written. Others, such as the attack on plastics, are well into their first few chapters, but with no clear ending in sight. It is those backstories and future-forward implications that position Mintel’s 2018 Packaging Trends as essential to retailer, brand, and package converter strategies during the coming year and beyond.”  Below is a list of the major trends you can expect to see as we move into 2018.

Packaged Planet:  Consumers often feel packaging is unnecessary or simply creates more waste.  Brands are starting to educate their consumers that packaging can actually extend shelf life of food and provide efficient and safe access to essential products in developed and underserved regions of the world! There is now a focus on innovative packaging that extends the freshness of food, preserves ingredient fortification, and ensure safe delivery.

rEpackage: Consumers from around the world shop online for convenience.  As more shoppers embrace online sales you will see brands developing their packaging to enhance the experience of shopping from home.  This new trend will help to reflect the expectations their consumers have when it comes to how their goods arrive at their destinations.

Clean Label 2.0: No more lengthy descriptions! Today’s consumers are more informed than ever, but brands risk losing customers who they bog down with too much information.  The “essentialist” design principle bridges the divide between not enough and just enough of what’s essential for consumers to make an enlightened and confident purchasing decision without second guessing the company’s authenticity.

Sea Change: Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers associated with plastic packaging ending up in our oceans.  Concerns over safe packaging disposal will increase shopper’s perceptions of different packaging types and impact their purchasing decisions.  Consumers want to see brands working to create a circular economy to keep packaging materials in use. Only by communicating that a brand is working toward a reusable solution will consumers feel more confident in their purchases.

rEnavigate: Younger consumers are buying less processed and frozen foods.  They are instead opting for items purchased in the fresh or chilled aisles.  Brands are looking to reinvigorate their packaging to draw these consumers back into the center-of-store aisles.  The designs they’re using are now more contemporary, transparent, and recyclable.  They’re also opting for more uniquely shaped packages to draw the younger shoppers to check them out.

Following these five trends in 2018 will ensure your brand will be able to keep up with the growing needs of your consumers.

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Biodegradable, antimicrobial cling wrap packaging in the works

Singapore-based researches are in the process of developing a material comparable to plastic wrap that is biodegradable, anti-bacterial, and free from chemical additives. While they are still in the early stages of development, if everything pans out, this could be a promising development in the world of food packaging.

Due in part to an increasing consumer demand for environmentally-friendly packaging, researchers developed the new material–chitosan–by deriving it from the exoskeletons of shellfish, making it a natural and biodegradable polymer. In addition to its biodegradable benefits, the cling wrap is also non-toxic, and even naturally contains some antimicrobial and antifungal properties.chitosan-gfse-film-data.pngTo enhance the antibacterial properties of chitosan, the film was fortified with Grapefruit Seed Extract (GFSE), a natural antioxidant that “…possesses strong antiseptic, germicidal, antibacterial, fungicidal, and antiviral properties.” The team researched the combined effects by varying the amounts of GFSE present, and early testing found that average shelf life was increased by about two weeks as compared to standard plastic wrap.

If the project continues as the researchers hope, this could improve food safety, and consequently, reduce food waste. According to the World Resources Institute, nearly a quarter of all food calories produced is wasted. That being said, here’s to hoping their research ends with success!

Find out more about their research from their study, ‘Functional chitosan-based grapefruit seed extract composite films for applications in food packaging technology.’

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Sustainable Packaging

In the packagingrecycle-1323775-m industry, sustainability is an incredibly important practice. Sourcing materials responsibly, producing to reduce and reuse waste, and transporting goods by means of renewable energy can make a big difference to a company’s impact on the environment. Saving energy and resources can even save your company valuable time and money.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is a major voice in the world of sustainability. Headed by GreenBlue (a nonprofit focused on product sustainability), the SPC aims “…to build packaging systems that encourage economic prosperity and a sustainable flow of materials.” They hold ongoing discussions on the many facets of environmental health, offer guidelines for renewable design, and educate developers and consumers on what resources and tools are available to them in order to contribute to a healthier world.

The SPC has played a large role in defining what exactly sustainable packaging even is–according to their page, “[the SPC’s Definition of Sustainable Packaging] has been widely adopted throughout the packaging industry.” This definition states that sustainable packaging:

  • Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
  • Meets market criteria for performance and cost
  • Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
  • Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials
  • Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
  • Is made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle
  • Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy
  • Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles

The SPC’s big vision is to create a “…closed loop system for all packaging.” Ecologists define a closed loop as a system “…that does not exchange matter with the outside world.” Where materials and energy would otherwise be thrown away and wasted, a closed loop system would look to repurpose them. Systems approaching a closed loop don’t just benefit the environment: they also save money in production. Energy and materials that can be repurposed instead of wasted should be seen as an opportunity to save the environment, time, resources, and money.

What is Direct Trade?

CCC_DTCseal_CCCThis week, we’ll be taking a look at the idea behind direct trade. A few weeks prior, we discussed the practice of fair trade: it’s an agreement that allows producers in developing countries to sell their products at a fair price, helps to keep their products sustainable, and makes sure their workers are being treated fairly. Fair trade acts as a sort of partnership which aims to make sure that no one is being taken advantage of.

Some consumers take issue with fair trade for a multitude of reasons, the most prevalent of which involves a lack of substantial evidence proving that fair trade practices positively impact the very countries which it claims to benefit, and that much of the money does not even go to the farmers who produce these goods (or their economy). Some critics claim that while fair trade is a good idea in theory, in practice, fair trade has “…evolved from an economic and social justice movement to largely a marketing model for ethical consumerism.”

Regardless of your opinion on fair trade, direct trade is worth taking a look at. It’s seen by many as an alternative, better, and more personalized version of fair trade. One of the biggest names in direct trade certification belongs to the co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee, Peter Giuliano, who self-identifies as a student of coffee (despite being in the industry for decades). He is also the director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

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Counter Culture Coffee boasts its own direct trade certification. According to their site,


“Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification is based on the principles guiding our coffee purchases and our relationships with coffee growers and grower groups. We engage an external auditor on an annual basis to verify Counter Culture’s compliance with four quantifiable measures, and coffees that meet the following standards qualify for Direct Trade Certification:

  1. Personal & direct communication: Counter Culture has visited all growers of certified coffees on a biennial basis, at minimum.
  2. Fair & sustainable prices paid to farmers: Counter Culture has paid at least $1.60/lb F.O.B. for green coffee.
  3. Exceptional cup quality: Coffees have scored at least 85 on a 100-pt. cup quality scale.
  4. Supply chain transparency: Counter Culture maintains direct communication between buyers, sellers, and any intermediaries (like importers). All relevant financial information is available to all parties, always.”

If you’ve read our fair trade post, you’ll probably recognize many of those practices. The difference is that with direct trade, a lasting relationship is built with the growers. Additionally, rather than meeting an extensive list of requirements (many of which may not apply to some growers, and may completely exclude those who are poor), requirements are personalized. In this way, direct trade is built to directly benefit the growers.

What is Fair Trade?

Fairtrade

In your time spent as a consumer, you’ve probably seen items labeled ‘fair trade,’ or ‘fair trade certified.’ You likely have a general idea of what this means; that one thing is being traded for another, and the terms of doing so are fair for everyone involved. What is it specifically, though, that makes something fair trade?

At its core, fair trade is an idea. It allows producers in developing countries to sell their products at a fair price, helps to keep their products sustainable, and makes sure their workers are being treated fairly. It’s a sort of partnership which aims to make sure that no one is being taken advantage of.

One of the main groups supporting this idea is the World Fair Trade Organization. Here are their 10 Principles of Fair Trade:

  • Create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers, which helps to increase quality of life and reduce poverty in their region
  • Transparency and accountability with management, commercial dealings, employees, and producers.
  • Fair trading practices, always keeping in mind the well-being of the producers (socially, economically, and environmentally).
  • Payment of a fair price, which has been agreed upon mutually.
  • Ensuring no child and/or forced labor.
  • Non discrimination in regards to things such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Good working conditions; the producer must maintain a healthy and safe environment for its workers.
  • Providing capacity building (helping employees, management, etc. to develop their skills).
  • Promoting fair trade.
  • Respect for the environment, maximizing the use of sustainable materials, buying locally, reducing energy consumption, and more.

In addition to fair trade being an idea, products can also be fair trade certified by groups such as Fairtrade International (a non-profit organization). There are different sorts of standards which vary depending upon your role in the process (if you are a producer, you are subject to different standards than the buyer).

In order to obtain certification, there is a list of mandatory criteria that needs to be met and upheld, such as purchasing at a minimum price and keeping their dealings transparent. If the company meets all of the necessary standards, they may apply for a license. This allows them to put the fairtrade certification mark on their product. Companies using this mark will be audited annually, making sure they are still in compliance with all fair trade standards.

Products that can be fair trade certified include: bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, flowers, fresh fruit, honey, gold, juices, rice, spices and herbs, sports balls, sugar, tea, wine, and certain composite products (products that contain more than one ingredient).

*Some people take issue with fairtrade in practice; this topic will be covered at a later date.