Corrugated Packaging Rides Sustainability Wave


Javier Zamora of Sambrailo holds a custom ReadyCycle clamshell.

The latest trend is to engineer corrugated replacements for all types of plastic packaging. “The biggest catalyst for packaging innovation today is the desire to replace other forms of packaging, particularly single-use plastics,” claims Rachel Kenyon, senior vice president of Fibre Box Association (FBA), Itasca, IL. “Many corrugated manufacturers are helping produce growers, shippers and packers develop corrugated options to replace plastic clamshells for berries, apples and a variety of other products.”

Kenyon highlights two recent examples: California Giant, Watsonville, CA, working with Sambrailo on corrugated clamshells for strawberries, and Starr Ranch Growers trialing a corrugated box made from compostable materials, instead of plastic packaging, for its organic Fuji apples.

Starr Ranch, Wenatchee, WA, aligned with PCA (Packaging Corporation of America), Wallula, WA, on the corrugated containers, and with Keyes Fiber, Wenatchee, WA, on the inner molded fiber tray. “We worked together to develop a package that was recyclable, visually attractive and protected the product,” explains Doug Snipes, sales at Fruit Packers Supply Inc., a packaging and containers company in Yakima, WA.

After performing better than expected from a strength perspective during transportation, Starr Ranch is working on various other options derived from the achievements of this corrugated package. “The drive toward corrugated as a plastic replacement is gaining momentum,” says Snipes.

Indeed, Snipes identifies corrugated as a preferred packing and shipping method for his customers as compared to reusable plastic containers (RPCs). “The supply is readily available; corrugated can be custom printed to deliver branding; the boxes flow easier through their production process; they present no issues with warehouse quality-control procedures; offer additional sizing options; and are generally more cost-effective,” he explains. “If you couple these factors with the fact most, if not all retailers, have cardboard balers on site, it really sells the recycling story for the corrugated industry.”

Since its launch three years ago, Sambrailo has received more interest in its fully-recyclable ReadyCycle packaging. Lozano says consumer demand was a “huge reason” why paperboard was chosen.

“We developed this line of packaging to address single-use plastic pollution; to give a truly recyclable option that has no wax, labels or plastic components,” she says. “Consumers are asking for less plastic and more sustainable packaging, and we want to meet this need and request.”

ReadyCycle clamshells are being tested by berry grower-shipper California Giant and foodservice supplier Markon Cooperative, Salinas, CA. Already, Sambrailo has expanded ReadyCycle into larger pack sizes for strawberries, blueberries and artichokes.

“ReadyCycle gives the grower and retailer the ability to communicate their brand 360 degrees, which is much more than just a 2.5” square space on a traditional label applied to a plastic clamshell,” says Sara Lozano, marketing manager of Sambrailo Packaging, Watsonville, CA. “Educating the consumer about why you have made the choice to use sustainable packaging is an opportunity to connect with the consumer.”