Seafood supplier NAFCO is using reusable plastic containers (RPC) that will save up to 50% on packaging costs compared to traditional foam shipping materials, while adding to the sustainability of the company’s supply chain process.
The packaging also will help cut down on use of the less sustainable and single use expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) and corrugated materials while helping eliminate the need of foam storage containers at facilities. The reduction of packaging costs could save NAFCO up to a dollar a box.
NAFCO is using the containers to ship large fish to more than 350 stores on the East Coast of the United States and the containers are being produced by reusable packaging company Tosca. NAFCO will begin to use a similar but smaller crate by Tosca later this month to ship other sizes of fish.
The companies also tested how well the temperature held in the RPCs throughout the supply chain process. They measured the internal temperature of the seafood as the products traveled from the distribution center to the store, and they maintained an average temperature of less than 35 degrees, which will keep the food fresh.
EPS foam is a popular shipping material for a variety of products, including food and electronics. While it is estimated the foam only takes up 1% of total landfill materials and parts of it can be recyclable, according to EcoMENA, it isn’t common to reuse the material. It is difficult to do so because of the space it requires, transportation needs and other costs that don’t make the number of recyclable materials produced worth it for many companies.
More businesses are also attempting uses for reusable containers, such as UPS Healthcare recently introducing cold chain reusable packaging. A grocery packaging system in the United Kingdom is estimated to let customers reuse packaging up to 2.5 million times a year.
Still, Tosca has said RPCs can divert hundreds of pounds of corrugated cardboard in its lifetime before being recycled and turned into new packaging. In 2019 supermarket chain Wegmans began using RPCs for shipping meat products.
“Sustainability is important to our business and we are always looking for ways to make our supply chain more sustainable,” says NAFCO Vice President Jeff Pearlman. “RPCs offer the opportunity for us to reduce the use of harmful EPS foam, while still preserving our ability to ship the highest quality products to our retail partners.”