ConAgra Foods, Omaha, NE, announced Aug. 18 that it is the first company in North America to incorporate post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic in its frozen meal trays, a move that will divert approximately 8 million pounds of plastic from landfills to the recycling stream annually.
ConAgra Foods has begun to use between 30 to 40% PCR plastic in nearly all of its frozen meal trays for Healthy Choice, Banquet, Kid Cuisine, and Marie Callender's products. Most frozen-meal trays used by other companies are made of crystallized PET, a material that uses only newly produced plastics and requires more energy and resources to produce. ConAgra Foods is the only company in North America using PCR plastic in frozen-meal trays.
ConAgra Foods partnered with tray supplier Associated Packaging Technologies (www.aptechnologies.com) to utilize a new technology that permits recycled PET to be used as a component in direct food-contact trays for frozen meals. APT, which indicated that the trays are almost all pigmented black, declined to identify its PCR source. An APT spokesperson said the company has been working on this development "for some time" with ConAgra.
A 'cost-neutral' improvement
According to ConAgra, the rPET innovation is cost-neutral, and so it is providing a more environmentally friendly package to consumers at no additional cost.
"Our commitment to innovation includes ways to be more environmentally responsible," says 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."
ConAgra Foods began the transition to the new trays in June 2008. The company's frozen-meal trays are now being produced using the more environmentally friendly material and will appear on store shelves this summer. According to a ConAgra spokesperson, the company will be promoting this development on its packaging and on its brands' Web sites in the near future.