Image

Archive for Recycled Content

Salmonella survives plastic crate washing test, transfers to fresh cucumber

A scientific study just published in the international peer-review journal, Food Control, poses some serious questions about the sanitation of the re-usable plastic crates (RPCs) sometimes used to distribute fresh produce to retailers.

The study shows how Salmonella can become established on RPCs and survive the typical sanitation cycles that are applied to decontaminate the crates between uses. The surviving Salmonella then transferred to and from fresh produce on the RPC, underscoring the potential for crates to spread the pathogen throughout the supply chain.

SalmonellaSalmonella infection can cause vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration in humans, and can lead to reactive arthritis or even death in susceptible hosts such as the young, old, pregnant or immune-compromised.

Food safety commentators have long suspected that there was a link between ineffective washing and cleaning of crates before their next use, and the transfer of virulent pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria to fresh produce sold at retail. The risk of transferring devastating plant pathogens such as tomato brown rugose fruit virus between farms is also a recognised risk factor for RPCs.

Back in 2013, University of Guelph food scientist, Dr. Keith Warriner, the corresponding author of this latest study, found damaged and visibly dirty crates being re-used in Ontario and Quebec. It was even suggested that some crates were being given a quick hose down and then simply transferred from farm to retailer and then on to another farm, rather than being shipped to the closest wash facility, which is what is meant to happen in a re-use system. A more robust study the following year found worse results, including E. coli on 13% of the crates tested.

Typical industry cleaning procedures didn’t completely sanitize the crates either. Research led by Dr. Steven Ricke at the University of Arkansas showed that Salmonella cells remained on crates after cleaning. Ricke suggested that bacterial biofilms were hiding in the cracks and crevices of the crate’s surface, making it harder for industrial sanitizers to reach them.

Dr’s Siyun Wang (University of British Columbia) and Warriner (University of Guelph) and their associates have now taken this research a step further, sampling more than 160 crates at grower/packer operations in three Canadian provinces (Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia). Laboratory-based trials were undertaken to simulate the conditions under which Salmonella could persist and even grow on residues left by damaged produce.

The researchers then simulated a typical industrial sanitation cycle (water rinse followed by a caustic wash and then peracetic acid sanitizer shower) to see if the Salmonella survived that treatment. It did, the authors concluding that “if present at sufficient levels, Salmonella can (both) survive sanitation and (then) contaminate subsequent produce batches when crates are redistributed’’ to a new grower.

“These findings, taken in combination with the relatively poor sanitary status of re-usable crates sampled within packer/grower facilities, highlight the potential food safety risks represented by re-using crates.”

A summary of the peer-reviewed study can be found at Food Control – V110. You can get the entire report here.

 

Please Note: PPEC, which represents the Canadian corrugated box industry on environmental issues, co-funded this University of Guelph project in the interests of getting all the facts on the table. The traditional corrugated box system for the produce industry provides a fresh box for each delivery. The boxes are recycled several times over the course of their lives and meet rigid process control standards in their remanufacture. In a typical mill recycling process, the temperature of the paper sheet reaches 220-240 degrees Fahrenheit, well above 100 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of water and the temperature required for sterilisation. The converting process also involves high temperatures and other hygiene controls. Having a fresh box every time minimizes the potential for undesirable pathogens and bacteria being carried forward to the consumer. A recent independent study of corrugated produce boxes showed that the corrugation process destroys bacteria.

A 2019 peer-reviewed comparative life cycle analysis conducted by Quantis showed that neither corrugated containers nor reusable plastic containers had an advantage in the environmental impact categories studied. Much depended on the commodity being shipped, transport distances, and other variables.

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC - Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

More Posts - Website

Brand owners sucked in by Canopy’s embarrassing boo-boos

Vancouver-based environmental group, Canopy, has launched a global campaign against paper packaging, claiming that three billion trees “disappear into packaging’’ every year leaving “a trail of deforestation, degraded forest systems, threatened species, and an increasingly volatile climate.”

Strong words. But are they true? Not as far as Canada is concerned (and probably the US too).

For a Vancouver-based group, Canopy is alarmingly ignorant of the packaging facts in Canada. Here’s one. Most of the paper packaging material made by Canadian mills is 100% recycled content!  It’s not made (as Canopy claims) with the “habitat of endangered species such as orangutans or caribou.” It’s made from old used boxes collected from the back of Canadian factories and supermarkets; from offices; and from Canadian homes. And has been for years, including in Vancouver. So no, it doesn’t have a “crushing footprint” on the world’s forests, biodiversity and climate.

The tiny amount of virgin fibre that is used to make paper packaging in Canada doesn’t come from “ancient” forests either, in the normal sense of that word. To most people, “ancient” means old, as in very old. In fact, Canada’s forests are relatively young, mostly between 41 and 120. And since Canopy mentions the Canadian boreal, guess what percentage of its trees is over 200 years old? Yep, a mere one (1) per cent. Check out the data from the National Forest Inventory. Branding the Canadian boreal as ‘‘ancient” is misleading and exaggerated.

Canopy talks about trees “disappear(ing) into packaging” but it conveniently fails to mention the other side of the ledger: that new trees are planted to regenerate the forest. This is provincial law in Canada. Logged areas must be successfully regenerated after harvest, either by natural or artificial means (planting and seeding). In Canada, this averages more than a thousand new seedlings a minute, or 615 million a year. It balances what is harvested.

And far from “leaving a trail of deforestation” (as Canopy claims), the paper packaging industry in Canada is not responsible for any of it. The major cause of deforestation in Canada is not forestry, it’s conversion of forest land to agriculture, and has been for years. Canopy knows this, or at least has been told so numerous times.paper packaging

Canopy also leaves the impression that pizza and shipping boxes are simply used once and thrown away. In fact, corrugated box recovery in Canada is estimated to be at least 85 per cent. In one province, Ontario, the residential Blue Box system sends an amazing 98% of the corrugated boxes that end up in the home, on for recycling. This provides a continuous recycling loop that maximizes the use of paper fibre, creating a circular economy.

More forest facts

Here’s some more Canadian forest facts that the ten mostly clothing manufacturers currently supporting Canopy’s campaign need to know:

  • In any given year, some 99.8%  of Canada’s forest lands is not logged at all
  • The 0.2% that is logged is mostly logged for lumber (to build houses and hospitals etc.) with lesser amounts harvested for pulp and paper products. The harvested area is subject not only to provincial sustainable forest management practices that include mandatory regeneration but also to independent third-party certification audits, including those by a certifier whose credentials Canopy regularly promotes
  • Canada leads the world in the amount of forest independently certified as sustainably managed. It is currently home to over 37% of the world’s total certified forests.

There’s a lesson here for brand owners everywhere. We commend you for committing to environmental causes. But please, please do not allow yourselves to be publicly embarrassed by lending your names and credibility to the false and misleading claims such as Canopy makes above. Facts do matter.

Please share this widely.

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC - Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

More Posts - Website

Press Release – Most Canadian packaging board now 100% recycled content

Most of the paper packaging material made by Canadian mills today is 100% recycled content. Old corrugated boxes and cartons are collected from the back of factories and supermarkets; used paper from offices; and a wide range of paper material gathered and sorted from residential (Blue Box) programs across the country.

It wasn’t always the case, says John Mullinder, executive director of the Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC), which has been tracking and promoting the industry’s performance since 1990.

The increase in recycled content has paralleled the move of Canadians into towns and cities, offering the mills better opportunities to harvest the nearby ‘urban forest’ of used paper and board. Initially the mills focussed on recycling old corrugated (shipping) boxes and printing and writing paper from offices, then broadened their interest to residential (Blue Box) sources as those programs developed. In 1990, for example, most Canadian cereal and shoe boxes (although made with 100% recycled content) ended up in landfill. PPEC and its customers led North America in pioneering the further recycling of this material so that today some 94% of Canadians can recycle it.

100% Recycled content boardPackaging Mills

Most packaging mills in Canada now produce a 100% recycled content board. That’s the way the mills were built. A handful of mills blend recycled material with sawmill residues (wood chips, shavings, and sawdust left over from lumber operations); or when sawmill residues are in short supply, freshly cut trees.

“But when you add all the numbers up,” says Mullinder, “the Canadian industry hardly uses any freshly cut trees to make paper packaging at all. The notion that every time we want to make a new box or carton, we just grab a chainsaw and head for the forest, is totally false.’’

According to PPEC’s latest survey of the industry, 2.1 million tonnes of recycled board was shipped by Canadian mills to domestic and export markets in 2018.  Some 87% of that was from mills making a 100% recycled content product (linerboard, corrugating medium, or boxboard).

For more information on recycled content (how it’s defined, how it’s measured, what averages mean, the difference between pre and post-consumer recycled, how the packaging grades differ, the need for virgin material, and the problem with regulating minimum recycled content levels) see the latest version of PPEC’s backgrounder Understanding Recycled Content or go to the PPEC website www.ppec-paper.com

Summary from PPEC’s 2018 Recycled Content Survey

Canadian Mill Shipments (including kraft paper):

3.37 million tonnes

Recycled Content Shipments:

2.11 million tonnes (62.7%)

Recycled Content from 100% Recycled Mills:

1.83 million tonnes (86.7%)

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC - Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

More Posts - Website

Most Canadian boxes, cartons now 100% recycled content

Most boxes and cartons manufactured in Canada are now 100% recycled content, made completely from old boxes and other used paper material collected from the back of factories, supermarkets, office buildings, or from residential Blue Box programs.

Some 13 mills across Canada produce nothing but 100% recycled content board, according to PPEC’s latest Recycled Content Survey. The industry’s environmental council completes a survey every two years, and has been tracking recycled content since 1990.

Recycled content blurb

There has been a significant increase in average recycled content over the years, from 47% back in 1990 to almost 80% today. Most Canadian packaging mills, though, now make a 100% recycled content product, that’s the way they were built. A few mills blend recycled material with wood residues (chips, shavings and sawdust left over from lumber operations), and three mills use wood residues or freshly-cut trees. When you add it up, the Canadian industry hardly uses any freshly-cut trees to make paper packaging at all. The notion that the industry reaches for a chainsaw every time it needs to make a new box or carton is a complete fabrication.

Any fresh trees that do get harvested for packaging purposes all come from commercial forests that have been independently certified as sustainably managed. Under provincial law, these forest areas must  be successfully regenerated either through tree planting and direct seeding, or naturally. The harvest and regrowth of Canada’s commercial forest is currently in balance, according to Natural Resources Canada.

For more information on how recycled content is defined and measured, how it differs between packaging types, and its relationship to virgin material, see PPEC’s  background report Understanding Recycled Content.

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC - Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

More Posts - Website