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Trends in Sustainable Packaging

By M. Scott Howarth, PhD.

Who would have thought!  Globally this last year, the produce industry has dealt with challenges that we will not soon forget - who has not had to deal with the affects from COVID-19 pandemic?  From supply chain issues to food safety concerns, our industry has found new ways to supply fresh and safe products quickly in these trying times.  With all this said, how would you define sustainability within your business?
As I ponder this question for Sinclair, sustainable packaging is continually evolving and if you had asked me this a few months ago I’m sure the answer would have been framed a little different.
My definition for sustainable packaging is that it’s an engineered packaging solution that is safe, functional, comes from a reliable supply chain and is cost effective.  If you dive into each of these characteristics you will start to see how each play a part to ensure that people, the packaged product and our environment must be protected.
For example, “What good is a package if the product is damaged during transport” or “How sustainable is the packaging if it’s materials are more expensive than the product it protects or are only made in one place on earth”.  I’m sure we could easily come up with many more examples.
It is important to consider not just where the materials come from but end of life for all packaging materials too.
Globally sustainable packaging has reached governmental action and these actions will affect Sinclair and the produce industry at large.  The EU has passed legislation and a number of member states have passed their own legislation – all focused on minimizing packaging waste, specifically plastics.

  • Recently France passed legislation that comes into effect 1 January 2022 banning fresh produce stickers unless they are home compostable and contain some level of bio-based content.


  • Flanders passed legislation this year banning produce stickers unless they are home compostable or are deemed essential (however, no official definition has been published to describe “essential”).


  • The US congress is considering a Bill to reduce the production and use of certain single-use plastic products and packaging.  Specifically, the Bill calls for the elimination of non-compostable produce stickers by 1 January 2022.  Currently, the Bill calls for industrial compostable meeting ASTM D6400 or ASTM D6868.

In the meantime, manufacturers and service providers like ourselves are working feverously to develop compliant home compostable products to meet these regulations.
How is Sinclair responding to these global challenges in sustainability?
Sinclair is committed to fostering environmental sustainability and introduced our first 100% certified industrial compostable produce label in 2019, called Sinclair EcoLabel.  All components of this label: facestock, adhesive and inks passed testing with an accredited third-party laboratory to show compliance with EN13432 and is certified by TÜV Austria under OK Compost - Industrial and Seedling certifications.  This was a major milestone in development of compostable labels, for which Sinclair earned the AE50 award for outstanding innovation by ASABE in 2020 and a nomination for the prestigious Fruit Logistica Innovation Award 2020.
To address European market concerns for a home compostable solution, Sinclair began development early in 2020.  This product targets the modified EN13432 standard and the Australian home compostable standard AS5810.  These home compostable standards essentially decrease the compost temperature from over 50°C to ambient temperature and increase the time allowed to disintegrate in this environment from 90 days to 180 days and to complete biodegradation from 6 months to one year.  Sinclair is evaluating multiple options and is targeting to have a certified product available by 1 January 2022 in time to meet the French legislation.
Here at Sinclair we understand that sustainability standards and regulations may seem confusing or highly technical - please know we are here for you.  Our dedicated team will help you to understand and to select the appropriate labeling solution for your operation wherever you do business around the world.  It is the last thing to be worrying about in these times - this is the Sinclair Advantage.


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