A Tampa, Fla.-based reusable packaging manufacturer has teamed up with a Canadian food rescue organization to reduce hunger and eliminate waste.
Hunger is a significant problem in Ontario, Canada, the U.S. and globally. At the same time, more than 30 percent of food is wasted and ends up in landfills. More and more retailers are collaborating with food rescue and hunger relief organizations to divert safe, nutritious food from disposal and landfills to help fight food insecurity, according to Dan Martin, president of IFCO North America, a global provider of reusable packaging solutions for fresh foods.
“Creative partnerships like the one we have with Food for Life help solve two very important problems and are emblematic of our commitment to operate responsibly and help make the world a better place,” he says.
In 2019, IFCO donated 5,000 of its reusable packaging containers (RPCs) to Food for Life Halton & Hamilton, a food rescue organization in Ontario. The company also donated another 25,000 to food banks globally, bringing its total donation to 300,000 RPCs since 2009.
“Food for Life recognizes the need for greater efficiency, and we already received IFCO crates from our local food donors who used them to share donations with us,” says Graham Hill, executive director of Food for Life Halton & Hamilton. “In addition, IFCO’s commitment to sustainability aligned with ours, so it was a natural fit.”
IFCO RPCs are designed to reduce food waste, reduce product damage by 96 percent and extend freshness for up to four days compared to single-use, one-way packaging.
“IFCO RPCs also address the problem of landfill waste by extending the shelf life of products and reducing damage along the supply chain and eliminating packaging waste,” says Martin.
Food for Life rescues 4.2 million pounds of food annually through a unique supply chain system. Prior to the start of the Food for Life-IFCO partnership, rescued food arrived in IFCO RPCs—a popular food container used by growers and retailers. The donations were then converted to cardboard boxes for shipping and handling by Food for Life.
“Under the new partnership, IFCO agreed to donate the use of its RPCs all the way through the Food for Life supply chain, eliminating the need for packaging transfers,” says Hill. “This partnership fundamentally impacts our ability to move food in the most sustainable way possible and also reduces damage to food during additional distribution.”
Hill says that retailers have found it easier to donate food, resulting in increased donations of food and meals served in local communities.
“The standard size and labeling makes the process easy, saves space and is more professional,” he says.
Martin says the IFCO RPC donation includes servicing the containers.
“Once used, we pick up the RPCs from Food for Life, inspect them, wash them and disinfect them,” he says. “If damaged, we replace them with new ones. In this way, the RPCs can be reused many times over the years.”
Because they are made of polypropylene, the most common food-grade plastic, they also are 100 percent recyclable and recycled.
“When IFCO RPCs have reached the end of their lifecycle, we recycle 100 percent of the RPCs,” says Martin. “This is possible because our RPCs consist of only one material—they can be granulated more easily since no materials have to be separated. Plastic containers made of different materials can never be fully recycled. At IFCO, we granulate RPCs that can no longer be repaired and use the granulate to manufacture new IFCO reusable containers.”