California company offers sustainable packaging for meat, fish

Trays and containers made out of bulrushes and other plant fibers are compostable over time, but keep wet items from becoming a mess on the shelf.

It may be an obscure biblical reference, but I have to admit that the first thing I thought of when I read the latest green packaging pitch from Excellent Packaging & Supply was this, "Moses."

That's because the Richmond, Calif., company's latest product line includes food display and containers that are made out of bulrushes. Yes, those tall, sturdy reeds that usually grow in wetlands or marshy areas and that figure prominently in the Moses story. The new trays and containers were designed to replace the polystyrene containers that are usually used to wrap up meat, poultry and seafood. They are manufactured by Be Green Packaging. (Excellent Packaging & Supply is the distributor.)

Made out of bulrushes, the containers are designed to compost in 30 to 90 days.

The containers are designed to compost in either residential or municipal composting facilities within 30 days to 90 days. They are primarily made of bulrush, although they also contain bamboo, sugarcane bagasse, and wheat or rice straw. The company makes a point of noting that these are plants that are not typically used in food production, so their use as packaging should not compete with food production. All of the plants are renewable on an annual basis, so there is an abundant supply of them over time.

The containers can stand up to freezers, microwaves and ovens. And they can also handle the rather wet packaging situations that are usually associated with meats and fish. (The reason that you sometimes have to use paper AND plastic at the supermarket when taking your groceries home.)

Said Allen King, president of Excellent Packaging & Supply:

"Ask any environmentally conscious grocer what they think of polystyrene, and they'll say they can't stand the stuff, but that it's a necessary evil because the alternatives just don't hold up to real use behind the meat, poultry and fish counters. Our new line of supermarket food and meat trays proves that there is now a viable alternative that's not made from corn, trees or plastic, and that offers the required durability and sturdiness -- even when used with fresh, moist food."

Excellent Packaging is in the business of advocating a range of sustainable packaging alternatives.

Another recent example of the products it distributes into the food service industry is the Ingeo biopolymer-lined clamshell containers that it is selling in conjunction with PrimeLink. The containers, which could be used by cafeterias or restaurants to package food-to-go, combine bagasse-based shells with a biopolymer coating. So, that means the containers won't leak when you are transporting hot or cold food, but they can still biodegrade over time.

Bagasse-based containers include a biopolymer coating so that they won't leak.

"This is a great example of how the latest biomass technology can be used to solve a messy problem. For restaurant patrons, this is also great news: the food served in these containers will be as good to eat as when it left the kitchen, and the containers can be added to the compostable waste stream," King said.

Excellent Packaging is also involved with a disposable cup that I wrote about over the summer that includes lines to help coffee baristas better figure out where to stop pouring.

Photos courtesy of Excellent Packaging & Supply

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