Plastic. Oops! It is one of the most reviled materials because of the environmental problem that its misuse has generated after many years of dealing with it. In the food industry it is one of the most widely used, because it is still the most versatile, economical and optimal for food preservation and for maintaining food safety.

Despite the tendency to measure all plastics by the same yardstick, the truth is that there are many nuances that should be taken into account. One of them is the origin of the plastic, since in many cases they contain a high percentage of recycled material. Another is the type of plastic we have in our hands, because at present, most of them are polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), both of which are 100% recyclable. In the world of fresh food, PET is the preferred material because it is more transparent and food can be better presented.

What is PET plastic?

PET plastic is fully recyclable and environmentally friendly. If this type of plastic is managed responsibly, i.e. if it is deposited in the yellow recycling garbage cans, it can enter the circular economy circuit many times over. Not only PET, but all types of waste can end up in the flames. The incineration or open burning of solid waste is responsible for the release of 20% of inhalable particles.

As shown in the paper by András Hoffer and colleagues, Emission factors for PM10 and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from illegal burning of different types of municipal waste in households, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics in 2020, PET releases about 5 times more inhalable particles than wood combustion. However, other plastics release 10 to 40 times more inhalable particles than wood, or 2 to 8 times more particles than PET.

If it ends up in natural environments, we have a problem, because it is very resistant and can last 1,000 years. It is therefore very important to recycle plastic, and consumers have a key role to play in this.

At Vicente Peris we use plastic, mostly in our fresh-cut and pre-prepared convenience food division. In the medium term, we will continue to do so, because today there is no alternative on the market that allows us to market our products ready to eat, without the tubs that contain them. Do we sleep at night? Very quiet. Because our packaging is the most sustainable version of plastic you can find on the market right now.

PET plastic containers

PET plastic containers

Why do our recycled PET containers deserve redemption?

  • The containers we use at Vicente Peris for the fresh-cut and pre-prepared convenience food ranges are made from 70% recycled PET plastic, which, as we have seen, is the most sustainable because it is 100% recyclable and recycled. If you are wondering why our packaging is not 100% recycled, the answer is simple: it is not possible today and 70% is the maximum we can incorporate so that it does not affect food preservation or food safety, which is a priority.
  • The Government is working on a
    waste bill
    which will require that all PET containers must incorporate 25% recycled material by 2025 and 30% by 2030. As we have commented in the previous point, in Vicente Peris that figure reaches 70% since 2018, well ahead of the deadlines and percentages set by the aforementioned bill.
  • We are always optimizing our packaging. We are currently replacing plastic cutlery in the peeled, cut and ready-to-eat fruit line with sustainable birch wood cutlery from certified sources. Birch wood is compostable and can be disposed of in the organic waste garbage can.
  • For months we have been working on a project with Prevented Ocean Plastic (POP), which will soon allow us to incorporate sustainable packaging produced with plastics from the sea, rivers and other natural environments. A beautiful project that we are looking forward to telling you about.
  • In 2019, we are completely eliminating trays made of a type of plastic that is less friendly than PET, namely expanded polystyrene. Currently, in the I Gama line and for products such as white celery, we use biodegradable and compostable sugar cane trays.

The ecoembes tax, another way of collaborating with the circular economy

Each company knows how far it can or wants to go in the area of recycling and sustainability. But there are regulations that we all have to comply with, and many of them have a bearing on recycling and sustainability issues. The so-called ecoembes tax is one of them.

All companies pay a tax based on the volume of packaging they introduce into the market, thus covering the cost of selective collection of packaging waste. The so-called cost of the
Green Dot
depends on the type of material: aluminum, cardboard, plastic, steel, ceramics, wood, cork, tetrabriks, etc.

It is another way of showing how the industry also contributes with different taxes to make production processes increasingly responsible.

PET plastic packaging and sustainability

PET plastic packaging and sustainability

At Vicente Peris we always want more sustainability, it is part of our CSR.

Putting sustainable packaging on the market and staying ahead of legislation is a lot, but it’s not everything. There is much more that can be done and at Peris we practice it every day, because we have integrated it into our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The internal management of the plastic that we use in our daily lives and that we dispose of after use is another of our priorities. We are referring, for example, to bottles of cleaning products, tubs that are damaged in the production process and are not marketed… All this waste is disposed of through authorized waste management companies. This means that at our facilities we have containers in which to deposit plastic waste, which is collected by specialized companies that take it to recycling plants so that it can have a new life, far from seas, rivers or natural environments.

The pandemic has also allowed us to find new ways to reduce plastic objects. In the hardest weeks, it was very difficult to find disposable gloves, which for us were a standard material. For this reason, we decided to eliminate this material from our personal protective equipment, and we now use gloves that we wash and disinfect daily and that allow us to work with them for much longer periods of time, keeping intact their main function, process asepsis and food safety. And since the change was positive, we have also done the same with the aprons and sleeves.

Plastic is an incredible material that has brought about an industrial revolution in many sectors (medical, transportation, automotive, aeronautics, construction, agriculture…), so until there are alternatives, we will have to continue to live with it. Its life is already long in itself (a century, nothing more and nothing less), let’s contribute to a long life and a responsible life thanks to the circular economy in which we all, including you, can participate.