Eco-friendly boxes could see polystyrene phased out

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fish

Re-usable plastic boxes could replace polystyrene boxes for
transporting fish and other foods, offering suppliers significant
environmental and product quality advantages.

Boxes made from lightweight, food-grade polypropylene by UK-based start-up Cool Blue Box have been found to reduce carbon emissions by around 78 per cent when compared with the CO2 emitted by producing and disposing polystyrene. They are currently being piloted by leading fish supplier Young's Seafood with several more lined up to trial the new packaging, said company founder and chairman Scott Masterton. "We're starting in the fishing industry but any product currently packed in one-time boxes could switch to ours. We've had interest from the meat industry, and for vegetables, chocolate and sauces,"​ he told Unlike polystyrene boxes, the innovative polypropylene box can be sterilised at high temperature and repeatedly re-used, cutting out the significant waste from polystyrene boxes used only once. An independent analysis carried out for the company by Robert Giddings BSc and William Davies BSc of the Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education found carbon emissions during production and washing of the boxes to be up to 78 per cent lower when compared with manufacture and disposal of the traditional polystyrene boxes. The new box also requires very little ice as it is cooled by a reservoir of food-safe gel in the lid which can be refrozen to at least -40°C. Less ice in the box allows for extra room in each box. Masterton says that up to 4 tonnes of extra salmon can be transported in each 40ft lorry using the new boxes compared with the polystyrene equivalent. The boxes also appear to be better for the quality of the fish. Ice can damage the texture and colour of fresh fish. In addition, the boxes contain microchips and can be scanned, allowing for more detailed traceability and less paperwork. This has attracted interest from around the world, developing countries like Pakistan and Indonesia seem particularly keen to improve traceability to access European markets. Once emptied, the boxes are collected and returned to a local washing facility for sterilisation before re-use. The company plans to rent out the boxes rather than sell them to food producers. It has already produced 100,000 at a cost of £1.8 million and intends to increase this to 500,000 allowing it to supply the European region. Polystyrene boxes with ice have been the principal means of transporting fresh fish for about 20 years. Around 35 million such boxes are used each year in the UK seafood industry. But Mike Parker, deputy chief executive of Young's, says the new box could see these being phased out. "Hopefully we're witnessing the beginning of the end for the polystyrene fish box, which would be a massive environmental revolution for the whole seafood industry."

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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