The world produces more than 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single use, according to Plastic Oceans. A significant amount of plastics each year ends up in the waste stream — in oceans, landfills and elsewhere. Great volumes of plastics — think six-pack rings, water bottles, containers, single-use bags and microplastics from manufacturing waste — are generated by the more than $12 trillion global food and grocery retail market.
The European Union (EU) has banned some single-use plastics and committed to complete reusability and recyclability of others by 2030. In the United States, California became the first state in January 2019 to ban restaurants from automatically providing plastic straws, and municipalities elsewhere are banning them. The proliferation of Styrofoam takeout containers and plastics bags, among other nonrenewable materials, has caused some municipalities and retailers to discourage, if not ban, their use.
For the food and beverage industry, the good news is that demand for sustainable packaging and materials is catching on. Consumers want to do their part as they increasingly seek responsibly packaged food and beverages. Growers, packers, producers and manufacturers in the food and beverage supply chain are rethinking and retooling their packaging to use renewable resources, reduce waste and lower emissions of greenhouse gases.
Wood-based and ecofriendly fibers produced by the Lenzing Group, the world's leading manufacturer of wood-based cellulose fibers headquartered in Austria, are manufactured in its facilities all over the world. LENZING™ fibers are produced according to the regulations for food compliance and are used in packaging for fruits and vegetables, tea bags and coffee pods, as well as reusable bags.
- Tea bags and coffee pods: LENZING™ branded Lyocell fibers, made from sustainably grown wood sources, are safe for food contact and compliant to the most stringent food-safety regulations, including that of the EU, German Foodstuffs and Animal Feed Code, and the U.S. FDA. Importantly, these fibers are also certified safe for food contact by the ISEGA, a leading independent testing and certification institute in Germany.
- Reusable bags: LENZING™ Lyocell fibers of botanic origin are ideal for strong and durable reusable tote bags. Certified safe for food contact by the EU, German Foodstuffs and Animal Feed Code, and the U.S. FDA by ISEGA, the reusable bags are ideal for grocery shopping.
Both classes of products — beverage filters and reusable bags — made of LENZING™ Lyocell fibers will break down in the waste stream and are even compostable. These products are tested and certified as compostable and biodegradable under industrial, home, marine and soil conditions, and thus can fully revert back to nature.
Botanic fruit and vegetable (F&V) nets: Environmentally sustainable nets for F&V are made from LENZING™ branded Modal fibers, which Lenzing primarily manufactures from renewable beechwood in sustainable forests in Europe, and are certified under European standards as compliant with recognized safety standards for food contact, including that of the EU, German Foodstuffs and Animal Feed Code, and the U.S. FDA. Similar to LENZING™ Lyocell fibers, the Modal-based nets are also certified as compostable and biodegradable under industrial, home, marine and soil conditions.
"One of the main benefits of our LENZING™ fibers is that their production requires fewer resources and emits fewer emissions than, say, cotton or plastics," said Bernard Alowonou, Vice President of Global Business Management, New Business Areas, Lenzing AG. According to Higg MSI, Modal fibers have shown to emit 60% lower emissions of greenhouse gases compared with fossil-based PE granulate production for standard plastic nets. Lenzing estimates that in the EU alone, more than 31,500 tons of plastics could potentially be replaced by its botanic nets every year.
Lenzing, which is active in a number of sustainable and circular economy programs, including the U.N. climate-change initiative, sees a bright future for sustainable packaging for the food industry. Besides its core customers of producers, retail chains and yarn manufacturers that make botanic nets, LENZING™ for Packaging solutions attract interest from stakeholders throughout the food supply chain. "We continue to field inquiries for cooperation along the entire value chain, and we also seek out partnerships along the value chain," said Bernard Alowonou.
Lenzing's wood-based fibers used in sustainable packaging already appear in retail grocery chains in EU countries, proven to deliver the same functional performance as plastic without the environmental negatives.