As you know, at Genpak we manufacture 99% of everything we sell. We have 14 manufacturing sites in the United States and 5 in Canada, along with our corporate headquarters here in beautiful Glens Falls, NY. Making our own products, and not just reselling someone else’s, gives our people a sense of pride that is shown in the wonderful quality our products have, which Genpak has come to be synonymous with. There certainly is something to be said about products Made In America! This video produced by the National Association of Manufacturers (which we are proud members of) does an excellent job of capturing this sentiment and is worth watching.
Genpak Blog - The Latest On Foodservice Packaging & More
The Federal Trade Commission defines recycled content materials as those that have been recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream. Recycled content can be broken into two categories. Post-consumer and pre-consumer, (which may also be referred to as post-industrial). Post-consumer content, as its name implies, are materials that have been used by consumers. Examples are clear plastic water and soda bottles made from P.E.T. that carry the #1 recycle symbol. Post-industrial is scrap that is generated during the normal manufacturing process that is recycled back into its raw material state and used again.
At Genpak, we began producing our clear Hinged Deli products using post-consumer recycled (PCR) content back in early 2007. Since then we have expanded that program to include all of our clear APET products including our foodservice lids, Supermarket Containers and clear bakery packaging.
The EPA states “There’s more to recycling than setting out your recyclables at the curb. In order to make recycling economically feasible, we must buy recycled products and packaging. When we buy recycled products, we create an economic incentive for recyclable materials to be collected, manufactured and marketed as new products. Buying recycled products has both economic and environmental benefits. Purchasing products made from or packaged in recycled materials saves resources for future generations.”
For our part, we have used nearly 100 million pounds of post-consumer resin for our APET products. To put that into perspective, it is the equivalent of diverting nearly 2 billion water bottles from landfills! Breaking it down even further to a customer level, you can say that for every 200 cases of our very popular AD16 purchased, you have helped divert 17,600 bottles that were destined for a landfill. Not only are our Deli containers made with 30% post-consumer recycled content, but they are also still #1 recyclable! It’s a win-win.
For more information or to request samples just drop us a line and we’ll get you everything you need to know.
So the battle was lost and Albany County in its infinite wisdom has banned foamed polystyrene foodservice products. A week or so after the ban, we got a call from the County Executives office asking if we could help them in identifying alternative materials. Here’s how the call went:
Genpak: Yes I understand Albany County banned PS foam. Can you tell me what it was banned in favor of?
Albany: Um, all plastics
Genpak: All plastics were banned? So not even microwave safe material or clear “water bottle” type material?
Albany: Um wait a minute…shuffles papers, no banned in favor of biodegradable or compostable materials.
Genpak: Okay, what is the definition of biodegradable or compostable within the law?
Albany: Um (shuffles more papers) something that biodegrades or degrades within a reasonable time period.
Genpak: Thank you. What is the definition of a reasonable time period? Two months, twelve months, three years?
Albany: Um it does not specify.
Genpak: Okay, maybe we can determine this by the preferred method of disposal. Can you tell me where the municipal composting facility is located where these products will be diverted to?
Albany: Um it does not specify.
Genpak: So let me get the facts straight. The bans’ author has taken the time to target a particular material in favor of one that is compostable, but has not specified a time frame for composting, the preferred method of disposal or a suitable composting facility?
Albany: Um yes it sure looks like that’s what he did.
Genpak: Thank you. So what will happen then is the restaurant will source these products, pay around 3 times more for them, pass on the added cost to the consumer, who will then have a very nice compostable product to dispose of, which will almost certainly be into a garbage pail which will have a polyethylene liner. The resulting trash will be tied up tight, then shipped off to the local landfill where it will be buried with the rest of the waste. From there it will sit for decades before it begins to degrade.
Albany: Why will it sit for decades? I thought it was compostable.
Genpak: Yes, it is compostable, but only within industrial or professionally run compost facilities who are licensed to accept food grade waste. These facilities can control heat and moisture levels which allows the container to break down and completely compost into useful soil enhancement.
Albany: What if the containers end up littered. Will it go away in nature on its own.
Genpak: Perhaps in years it might, but certainly not in what most people would consider a reasonable amount of time. These products are not like leaves that break down within a season. If they were made that way, they’d never be able to be used for holding, transporting and protecting food products.
As I’ve said so many times before. We should let the markets decide which type of materials and containers they want to use. Almost always when this is the case, homework and testing has been done regarding a products entire life cycle. Consumers should be the force driving markets…not politicians. When the latter is the case, you get exactly what has happened in Albany County. They have done nothing more than put undo pressure on local businesses that can eventually drive consumer prices higher or stifle growth.
We manufacture and sell an awful lot of compostable products which is great. There are numerous instances where markets or food operators have made a conscious decision to switch their type of packaging from one material to another, but they have done their homework in terms of end of life scenarios for all their waste…including the packaging. They’ve arranged for recycling, reusing as well as worked out a composting program. When it’s done like this, it is a very good system. When it’s done by legislation being forced down businesses throats, nothing is accomplished except for making your club sandwich and fries go from $6.50 to $7.15.
I attended the hearing last evening in Albany held by the County Executive Dan McCoy, who listened to statements from folks regarding the proposed ban on foamed polystyrene food packaging. There was a good mix of people from individual citizens to local union workers to manufacturers. It was interesting listening to the people who were in favor of the ban and their misguided arguments. It became clear that much of what the proponents of the ban were saying was pulled from urban legend emails and internet chatter concocted by those who would demonize what they don’t like. The following is a summary and subsequent debunking of their arguments.
- Foamed polystyrene is “clogging” our landfills. FALSE! The EPA stated that in 2011, as a nation we generated 250MM tons of trash. Of that trash, 12.7% is listed as plastic. Keep in mind that is all plastics from shampoo bottles & toys to durable goods such as furniture. They estimate that only 2.8% of that plastic is non-durable goods such as plates, bowls and cups. The EPA did not segregate solid plastic from foamed plastic which, is the material being targeted in this ban. Consider for a moment that a foam 12 ounce bowl weighs about 58% less than a solid plastic 12 ounce bowl and you can reasonably concluded that the actual amount of foamed foodservice items going into landfills is more around the 1.5% number. Now I do not have a number I can hang on the word “clogging”, but 1.5% of something is far from any reasonable definition.
- Foam polystyrene is dangerous to your health. FALSE! One lady who spoke actually stated that these items were poisonous and why would we want to use poisonous products. The sad part was, she was not being facetious and had been convinced that foamed foodservice items would do her serious harm. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Foam foodservice items have been safely used for over 40 years. The FDA has approved foam foodservice items to be safe for food contact. In fact there are studies done by the Nevada Health Department that show the use of single use packaging is actually more safe that permanent ware due to lower microbial levels. Think about it. How many times have you gone out to eat and noticed your plate or silverware had little specs of food dried on it? This simply never happens with foam food packaging. There was also a fair bit of chatter regarding the component styrene. This is an instance where people hear what they want to and disregard the rest. The fact is, styrene is a liquid whereas polystyrene is an inert solid. I’ve never seen a liquid version of a foam food container. Furthermore, styrene is present naturally in many foods we eat including beef, strawberries, wheat and cinnamon. In fact you’d be exposed to far more styrene by eating one cinnamon donut than drinking 30 cups of coffee from a foam cup. I have not heard of any bans on cinnamon donuts though. Why? Simple, the amount of exposure is so incredibly small, it is measured in parts per billion. The plain truth is foam foodservice products are totally safe. History, the FDA and the scientific facts support that claim whereas those who claim otherwise rely on hyperbole, urban legends and misinformation to confuse and misguide folks like that poor little lady who thought it was poisonous.
- Foam containers contribute to litter. Should this ban go through, Albany County would simply be trading one type of litter for another. The ban calls for replacements items to be compostable. Here again, the folks in the audience who brought up this point simply don’t know that even though an item may be designated as compostable, it simply will not go away like they think it will if littered. I know this because as a company we offer many compostable products and know that they will only compost when deposited in professionally run compost facilities that have control over heat and moisture exposure. One gentleman displayed a cup that had been littered and said if that were a paper cup or other compostable item, it would have gone away. That is simply not true. Consider this, it takes a leaf one full year to biodegrade back into the forest floor. How long do you think it would take a compostable cup or bowl, if littered to fully biodegrade? I’ll bet that gentleman thought it was maybe a month or two. I think not. More like a couple of years. Addressing the litter issue by banning a particular product in favor of a far more expensive (2 times more) item just places undo financial hardship on business owners who use those products. It does nothing about litter. A litterbug is going to litter that cup no matter what it is made of. It seems to me increasing fines and actually going after the litterbugs would do much more in controlling litter than banning a product. Catch someone and fine them $200 bucks for chucking a cup out their window will quickly change their minds on how to properly dispose of that cup. Litter is not something caused by foodservice single-use items. Litter is caused by unmanaged and overflowing trash receptacles, the general lack of properly placed trash receptacles and unscrupulous people who knowingly and illegally dump their refuse into the environment. Not that any litter is good, I thought it would be helpful to know that “fast food” packaging which is what we are talking about here, actually is a very small percentage of the total litter. Here is a graphic right from Keep America Beautiful that shows these containers are only 5.3% of the litter problem.
As you can see, I’ve linked in sources from reputable web sites and listed other references by name. Anything stated here can be looked up and verified…unlike most all of the wild claims made by proponents of the ban last night. I really think that 90% of the folks that spoke in favor of the ban are good people that are just not informed of the true facts. They have bought into the misinformation and outright falsehoods spread by the other 10% who simply have it out for “big business”. Hopefully the eight Genpakers along with the employees from other food packaging manufacturers that were present, helped to put faces behind company names. We are folks just like them who live and raise families right here in New York State. I doubt my little blog here will change the minds of those 10% who only hear what fits into their ideology, but for those other people, I truly hope that you will read and consider the facts before passing judgement.
Emperor Bloomberg is trying to inflict as much damage to the economy as he can prior to his exit as New York City Mayor by cramming through a ban that would stagnate job growth and raise consumer prices all while doing nothing to solve their litter issue. I think the most disturbing thing in that piece, was the video where all the school children were marched out by their “teachers” to chant against the polystyrene workers who came in support of their jobs. Typical it seems these days of certain groups. Demonize and belittle that which they do not agree with or which doesn’t fit into their ideology. A sad day for those poor school kids and shame on those “teachers” for forcing their personal views upon them.
News worth reading…
- I guess it’s true what they say. There is an app for everything. This one is for help sorting PET recycling containers.
- Top food trends for next year. Interesting on the seaweed part.
- The city of Montreal will expand their foamed polystyrene recycling efforts. Hats off to our neighbors to the North!
- Chili’s to offer delivery service for their food. I would think this is something that will continue to spread with certain restaurant chains. It’s all about convienience and it’s not bad for food packaging companies like us as well who produce the items that would be used package the food.
- Intellegent food packaging will be the way of the future. I really like the idea of the packaging itself being able to tell the consumer if the food is fresh or not.
- Another short sighed bill by a short sighted local government that will hurt area food vendors/restaurants and make it harder for them to survive. The mayor there states the products can’t be recycled. I did a 20 second Google search and found two facilities that accept EPS foam plus another dozen that accepts EPS foam loose fill. Guess it would be too hard to strike a deal with any number of these facilities regarding a recycling program. Yeah it is just so much easier to ban stuff. They should take a lesson from the folks up on Montreal who work to a solution instead of banning products.
Here’s some articles worth reading.
- I don’t remember where I heard this, but someone once said, “anything that can be invented has already been invented”. This new concept slaps that notion down. I’ll be looking for this new packaging at the grocery store.
- McDonald’s to begin placing paperback books into happy meals. Check out the critic’s comment at the end of this piece. What a nut. This guy would probably like nothing better than to run them out of business and send the millions employed by McD’s out on the street. Can he not be happy and a little satisfied that McD’s is encouraging kids to read and maybe learn a little at the same time? Get a life dude.
- A fitness center at my grocery store? I have mixed emotions about this one. Hopefully shoppers can’t see the folks working out.
- Recycling rates for PET continues to increase which is a good thing. For our part, we have been using post consumer recycled PET for many years now in the production of our clear APET products.
- Here’s an interesting concept for food packaging. I think this person has a future in packaging design!
- Food packaging designed for a trip to the Antarctic. Even though this is not Genpak packaging, you have to give credit where credit is due.
- Quick service restaurant CEO says Obamacare will hurt job creation and reduce staffing. This could have far reaching effects which will include food packaging decisions.
Do you have a smart phone? I have a smart phone. My husband has a smart phone. My co-workers have smart phones. Everyone I know has a smart phone. Actually more than 56% of the US population has a smart phone. Eighty percent of young people, ages 18-34, own a smart phone. No wonder every website has a mobile version.
But that’s not what I’m getting at. With our population becoming more and more attached to their phone, restaurants need to get to consumers in different ways. Enter online ordering from your favorite fast casual restaurant. You can now get take-out food without even talking to someone. Catering decisions can be made quickly. Placing an order for your favorite dish right before you leave from work and picking it up on the way home just became more convenient. No one trying to up sell you on an appetizer or dessert. With the ease of ordering take-out food we have seen the increase in usage of our microwave safe containers.
Our Smart Set Pro and Harvest Pro product lines fit right in. Take away soups, appetizers and full meals can all be accommodated in these products. Smart Set Pro comes in two pieces black and clear bottoms with clear lids. You can still show off your products while keeping them hot. Don’t forget you can put your brand on the lids! Smart Set Pro containers are reusable.
Why not cement that idea of take-out from your restaurant even further when they are using it to store left-overs from home. Our Harvest Pro products are hinged containers made of polypropylene and natural minerals. Both of these options are leak resistant, recyclable, and microwave safe.
And don’t forget there’s an app for that. With the boom of the iPhone and Android, many restaurants now have loyalty apps that reward you with points, or coupons right in the palm of your hand, encouraging you to take-out, dine in, eat more, and bring friends.
For me, the first change in how restaurants view take out packaging, began shortly after 9/11. Late September and October traditionally offers and abundance of Distributor food shows (both in the Fall and Spring). As I attended these shows a common theme came from the restaurant owners that attended these show. Their dine–in business was down but their take out business had increased. This was due to a nervous public not feeling safe to dine out just yet but they still wanted to enjoy their local restaurant’s signature entrees. The traditional doggie bag packaging did not fully represent their “Brand”. This gave rise to decorated containers and black take out packaging (highlights the food and not the package).
The second change I noticed was when my wife and I decided that, because we now had two young children, it was time to join the “Family Van generation”. As we shopped for this family transportation device, I noticed that a big selling feature was the multiple cup holders and easy folding tray tables these vans offered. We are truly a mobile society and the growth of the internet and social media makes that growth much faster. Imagine telling your parents back in the 1960’s, that the delicious looking sandwich you were eating came from…..the local Gas Station?
The take out industry has exploded in every shape and variety. Statistics show that more people take out their food than eat it in the restaurant. I used to tell distributor sales people about our products and how they function; now I tell them to ask the question to the restaurant owner. What do you want out of your take out program? Having a solid to go program helps you realize a tremendous source of profit. No wait staff, no waiting for table turnover, and no dish washing.
They say “you eat with your eyes” and if your brand is your food, then choosing take out packaging in this day and age is critical to your bottom line
Here’s a few articles worth reading.
- An interesting piece on photographing frozen meals for the outer display carton. Reality or creative liberties? You decide.
- Sort of along the same lines as the previous post, but this one talks about on-line grocery shopping and the imagery used to sell those products.
- Same store restaurant sales slump in Q3. This coincides with the overall health of the economy I think…no matter what the government keeps telling us.
- Specialty drinks help restaurants cope with slumping beverage margins. And they are tasty I might add!
- Gluten free baked goods? Sound odd, but it looks like it has passed the trend phase. The good news is, all Genpak bakery products are 100% gluten free!