On Monday, 8 June, the Dutch company, Valstar, received fruit and vegetable world-first - packaging made from elephant grass. Roy van den Heuvel presented it. He's the Argos Packaging & Protection Account Manager. Valstar and Argos, also a Dutch company, did this to make a statement to the rest of the market - only by being innovative together, can we ensure trade that's as fair and sustainable as possible.
Packaging volume keeps increasing
"It's important for Argos to contribute to making the packaging industry sustainable. Fruit and vegetable packaging adds a lot of value. This in areas like shelf life. The demand, therefore, keeps increasing. In 2019, we used 26 billion pieces of plastic food packaging. The rise in the use of plastic is mostly due to population growth. That alone makes for an increase of about 100 million packages per year. Aside from that, Argos sees that the demand for packaging has received an extra boost. Hygiene and food safety now plays an even more important role," says a company spokesperson.
"That's why it's essential that we, as a link in the chain, keep innovating. We must find sustainable solutions. Here, the development phase is vital. You need to consider the choice of material and quality of form," says Roy. "We don't only supply packaging. We also produce them. So, we can produce, test, and adjust samples if needed. We can then proceed to definite production."
Coming up with sustainable ideas together
Argos and Valstar partnered with Vibers, a Dutch paper manufacturer. They introduced this sustainable cardboard fruit and vegetable packaging at Fruit Logistica. It's made from local elephant grass. This is an alternative raw material for packaging. Elephant grass grows in fallow soil and is planted only once. It's a perennial plant that yields 20 tons of dry biomass per hectare. Add that this grass absorbs more CO2 than a comparable plot of trees. These characteristics mean it could be considered a miracle crop.
This is the first time this alternative raw material has been used for fruit and vegetable packaging. That's because it's still in its infancy. It is, therefore, not the cheapest fruit and vegetable packaging solution. Argos and Valstar, however, find it crucial to take this first step. In this way, they can achieve further sustainability in the packaging industry.