Foodservice Packaging Competition Now Accepting Nominations for Bi-Annual Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the bi-annual Foodservice Packaging Awards competition to honor excellence and innovation in foodservice packaging. The Foodservice Packaging Institute and QSR magazine kick off their 11th competition with multiple award categories to serve the industry.

Awards will be given in five categories. The top winners from each category will be eligible to win the coveted award of “2021 Foodservice Package of the Year.” The categories are:

  • Excellence in Brand Delivery: For excellence in the use of graphics or graphic design elements on packaging to promote brand recognition.
  • Excellence in New Menu Launch: For excellence in packaging that supports the launch of a new menu item.
  • Innovation in Convenience: For innovative features that make packaging easier to use and/or more convenient for the consumer and/or foodservice workers.
  • Innovation in Manufacturing: For raw material, machinery and/or converting innovations that enhance packaging.
  • The “Wow” Factor: For packaging with that extra “wow” effect when consumers or foodservice operators use or see this item.

“Over the years, we’ve seen some pretty amazing submissions, and look forward to seeing this year’s nominations that showcase innovation and excellence,” said Natha Dempsey, president of FPI. “It will be even more interesting to see how companies have continued to move forward with their foodservice packaging during the upheaval of the pandemic. Kudos to all of the entrants.”

A panel of industry experts will judge the entries. FPI will honor the winners during the association’s Fall Conference, October 28–29 in San Antonio, Texas. QSR will feature the results in its November 2021 issue.

Foodservice packaging manufacturers, their suppliers, foodservice operators, distributors, public relations firms and others are encouraged to enter the free competition by nominating themselves or others. For more information and to submit entries, please visit QSR’s website.

Coon Rapids Expands Operations to Recycle Additional Foam Packaging

The Coon Rapids Recycling Center received a $50,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC) to increase the recycling center’s capacity to manage, process and recycle more post-consumer foam polystyrene, including foodservice packaging and protective packaging.

The Coon Rapids Recycling Center, a residential drop off center located in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, focuses on materials that cannot be recycled at curbside — items ranging from carpet to appliances and electronics. The FRC funding, along with funding from a state of Minnesota Capital Improvement Project grant, allows the center to expand their current operations, purchasing equipment to assist in additional foam polystyrene recovery and performing maintenance and repairs to their existing foam densifier.

The recycling center accepts common household recyclable materials, oil and oil filters, scrap metal, organic food waste, electronic waste, batteries, mattresses and other materials. With a repaired densifier and new forklift, the center can expand their current foam polystyrene recycling program to accept foam foodservice packaging, cups, trays and other containers.

“It’s terrific to see more foam material coming to our recycling center. But with the increase, we needed to expand, find a solution to maintain our existing equipment and handle additional material,” said Colleen Sinclair, City of Coon Rapids recycling coordinator. “The Foam Recycling Coalition grant means we can continue serving our residents and collecting these recyclable materials for the foreseeable future.”

Coon Rapids is the 18th grant recipient to receive FRC funding since 2015. Over 3 million additional residents in the U.S. and Canada can recycle foam as a result of FRC grants.

“We work with forward thinking communities, like the City of Coon Rapids to expand recycling programs for their residents,” said Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, which houses the coalition. “We’ve kicked off another year of FRC grants to continue to fund innovative programs that will help recover foam polystyrene packaging throughout North America.”

The 2021 Foam Recycling Coalition grant application process is open to public and private entities. Applications are due May 28, 2021. Visit www.RecycleFoam.org to learn about foam recycling, read about previous recipients or apply for a grant.

The grant is made possible through contributions to FRC, which focuses exclusively on increased recycling of post-consumer foam polystyrene. Its members include Americas Styrenics; CKF Inc.; Chick-fil-A; Dart Container Corp.; Dolco Packaging; Dyne-A-Pak; Genpak; INEOS Styrolution America LLC; Pactiv Evergreen; and Republic Plastics.

22nd Annual Industry Report Indicates Some Growth Despite Pandemic

The Foodservice Packaging Institute’s 2021 State of the Industry Survey reveals that more than one-third of foodservice packaging manufacturers and suppliers experienced growth in volume while nearly one-quarter remained at the same level. Forty percent of respondents reported profit growth, a slight decrease compared with 45% of respondents in 2019, the last time the survey was released.

The 22nd State of the Industry Survey includes input from raw material and machinery suppliers, converters, and foodservice distributors and operators. The survey looks at industry issues, such as changes to volume and profits; expansion and purchasing plans; and opportunities and challenges facing the industry, including COVID-19’s impact.

“In 2020, when the world landscape was turned upside down, we determined that an industry report would not reflect the tremendous upheaval that we were experiencing. We are happy to be back this year with our annual survey which asks people in the industry, both members and non-members, to share their thoughts and insights on issues that matter most to the foodservice packaging industry,” said Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute. “Based on the feedback of nearly 80 organizations, the 2021 State of the Industry Survey predicts a positive year for the foodservice packaging industry, despite the pandemic.”

In a sign of optimism, 84% of respondents expect volume expansion and 72% expect profit growth this year. Foodservice operators who responded saw decreased sales, but were overwhelmingly optimistic that this trend would reverse in 2021.

In an interesting split, 50% of the North American manufacturer respondents reported another year of corporate expansion plans through construction of new facilities, expansion of current facilities, and mergers and acquisitions. Similar to previous years, 80% of North American converter respondents plan to purchase machinery in 2021.

Respondents continue to view the fast casual and quick service sectors as the greatest areas for market expansion. This is due largely to COVID-19 and post-pandemic health and safety concerns as continued use of take-out is expected. Areas, such as grocery stores and convenience stores, are also noted as opportunities for market expansion because of increased foodservice solutions and the popularity of being able to purchase products to eat at home.

“We are encouraged by the positive outlook within our industry, despite the challenges we face, and continue to face, with the coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions,” adds Dempsey.

FPI members and contributing participants received complete survey results. A complimentary executive summary of the report is available at www.fpi.org/resources. For more information, contact FPI’s Ashley Elzinga at aelzinga@fpi.org.

Greensboro Non-Profit Organizations Partner to Establish Recycling Drop-Off Site

Four non-profits in Greensboro, North Carolina, Tiny House Community Development (THCD), Greensboro Beautiful, Inc., Emerging Ecology and Environmental Stewardship Greensboro, have teamed up to establish a local drop-off site near downtown Greensboro to recycle more foam packaging products and keep them out of the landfill. The group was awarded a $22,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC) to assist in purchasing a foam densifier that will be housed and operated from the THCD training and recycling center.

These partner organizations make tremendous efforts to help their community. For over 50 years, Greensboro Beautiful has played a key role in demonstrating citizen and community support for recycling with a focus on proving feasibility for potential “hard-to-recycle” materials. Tiny House Community Development, the operators of the new recycling drop-off, is a non-profit organization working to develop tiny house communities within Guilford County and the City of Greensboro. Environmental Stewardship Greensboro is an interfaith volunteer coalition that encourages sustainable lifestyle practices within faith communities and among residents of the county. Together, these organizations have established a new recycling drop-off site to increase diversion of materials from their landfill.

“This unique partnership of Greensboro organizations will provide the necessary services to recycle clean and empty foam packaging that is generated by their community, as well as educate residents as foam polystyrene recycling continues to increase across North America,” says Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, which oversees FRC.

FRC funding helped these organizations purchase and install a high-capacity densifier unit to better manage the foam collection at their new site, which opened in November 2020. The densifier allows the drop-off site to collect all types of foam polystyrene packaging materials including foodservice containers and trays from residents, hospitals, colleges, and businesses within Guilford County.

The organizations estimate that approximately 1% of the current solid waste stream within the City of Greensboro is foam packaging material, so a new option for the community to divert this material is encouraging. “This unique but practical partnership among our organizations will allow us to establish a brand-new foam drop-off site near downtown Greensboro for all county residents to use,” said William “Bill” McNeil of Environmental Stewardship Greensboro. “Not only is this site a great opportunity for the city’s recycling efforts, all proceeds from the sale of our densified foam will support construction of Tiny Houses, which will provide job training and homes for individuals in the community.”

The grant is made possible through contributions to FRC, which focuses exclusively on increased recycling of post-consumer foam polystyrene. Its members include Americas Styrenics; Cascades Canada ULC; CKF Inc.; Chick-fil-A; Dart Container Corp.; Dolco Packaging; Dyne-A-Pak; Genpak; INEOS Styrolution America LLC; Pactiv Foodservice/Food Packaging; and Republic Plastics.

Tiny House Community Development, Greensboro Beautiful, Inc., Emerging Ecology and Environmental Stewardship Greensboro are the 17th grant recipients to receive FRC funding since 2015. Over 4 million additional residents in the U.S. and Canada can recycle foam as a result of FRC grants. Visit www.RecycleFoam.org to learn about foam recycling, read about previous recipients or apply for a grant.

St. Lucie County, Florida Expands Foam Polystyrene Recycling Program

St. Lucie County, FL residents and businesses will now be able to recycle more foam polystyrene products, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition.

After starting a single stream program in 2014, St. Lucie County has seen a continuous increase in the tonnage being processed at the St. Lucie Materials Recovery Facility, as well as continued engagement with residents on their recycling efforts. On average, the St. Lucie MRF processes 200 to 300 tons of recyclables per day and has a contamination rate as low as 15% to 18%, which it believes shows the commitment of their residents to the recycling effort. In the last few years, the county has received numerous questions and interest in foam recycling. Unable to provide curbside service for this material, the county hopes the drop-off recycling site for foam will meet resident requests.

The county’s drop-off recycling facility currently accepts corrugated cardboard, mixed paper, #3-7 plastics, steel, and aluminum. Now the new foam densifier is installed, the facility can accept clean foam packaging from televisions, appliances, computers and furniture, as well as clean foodservice packaging, such as egg cartons, coffee cups, light colored meat trays and foam coolers.

The county serves about 310,000 residents and nearly 123,000 households. “The new grant funding allows us to expand our current collection program and help us satisfy our residents’ requests for increasing recycling efforts within our county,” said Rebecca Olson, Assistant Director for St. Lucie County Solid Waste and Recycling. “With the growing concern from residents regarding how to recycle foam polystyrene, we know the participation in the program will be high, so with the help of this grant to expand our capabilities, we know this program will be a success.”

“St. Lucie County has residents who are passionate about recycling and the county has an amazing opportunity to address this need and provide new services for foam recycling to a population that truly is driven to keep these valuable materials from being landfilled,” said Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, which houses the Foam Recycling Coalition.

The grant is made possible through contributions to the FRC, which focuses exclusively on increased recycling of post-consumer foam polystyrene. Its members include Americas Styrenics; Cascades Canada ULC; CKF Inc.; Chick-fil-A; Dart Container Corp.; Dolco Packaging; Dyne-A-Pak; Genpak; INEOS Styrolution America LLC; NOVA Chemicals Corp.; Pactiv Foodservice/Food Packaging; Republic Plastics; and TOTAL Petrochemicals & Refining USA.

St. Lucie County, Florida, is the 16th grant recipient to receive FRC funding since 2015. Over 4 million additional residents in the U.S. and Canada can recycle foam as a result of FRC grants. Visit www.RecycleFoam.org to learn about foam recycling, read about previous recipients, or apply for a grant.

Collaborative PET Thermoform Report Examines Recycling Pathways

The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) and project partners released results of their PET Thermoform Cost and Material Flow Analysis study. The summary of findings includes estimated material volumes in the marketplace and current recovery pathways. The study also presents relative costs and trade-offs for the potential pathways to increased recovery of this post-consumer material stream, whether through material recovery facilities (MRFs), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) reclaimers, or mixed plastics recyclers/plastics recycling facilities (PRFs). PET thermoform packaging includes cups, clamshells, trays, bowls, and deli, bakery and take-out containers.

“Working across the PET thermoform supply chain, we identified specific constraints to recycling, which led to the creation of this study and collaboration with partners. This study shows that there is potential to increase PET thermoform recovery through MRFs and PET reclaimers, although we still have some work to do to define the best path forward,” said Natha Dempsey, president of FPI. “Our partners along with the MRFs and PET reclaimers we surveyed and interviewed have our thanks for sharing their valuable data, insights and perspectives.”

In partnership with FPI, project supporters included trade organizations: the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), the Northeast Recycling Council, The Recycling Partnership and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition; and company partners: Amcor, Danone North America, Driscoll’s, Eastman Chemical, Green Impact, Loop Industries, Mondelez International and Sonoco. The study was conducted by Resource Recycling Systems (RRS).

“Our findings show that there is adequate volume of PET thermoform material in the U.S. marketplace to make this a viable target stream for increased recycling,” said Liz Bedard, senior director of industry collaboration of The Recycling Partnership. “The study estimates annual marketplace volumes by weight, as equivalent to natural HDPE. There’s certainly potential here if we can overcome some of the constraints identified in this study.”

“While a lot of communities accept PET thermoforms for recycling, there are important questions downstream in the recycling value chain,” said Adam Gendell, associate director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “We all want to see healthy, robust demand for PET thermoforms on the recycling market, and this research is critical to understanding those downstream challenges and opportunities.”

PET reclaimers who process curbside post-consumer PET material are currently processing PET thermoform material along with PET bottle material. The percentage of recycled PET thermoforms (rPET) processed varies by reclaimer operation and rPET end market, but most reclaimers reported a tolerance for up to 10% by weight of a PET bottle bale.

“PET reclaimers’ business models are predominantly bottle-centric and typically not set up to process high percentages of PET thermoforms for reasons that are both technical and commercial,” said Darrel Collier, executive director of NAPCOR. “This was confirmed through interviews conducted for this study and it’s something we are taking a very close look at now as we consider how we might further this work.”

NAPCOR and the study team noted that there are a few PET reclaimers, primarily in California, that are running PET thermoform-only bales to rPET for PET sheet/thermoform end markets. This is one pathway considered in the study.

The study looked at the feasibility of sorting PET thermoforms into a separate stream at MRFs to be recovered in a thermoform-only bale. “MRFs are in the business of marketing commodities and many of the MRFs surveyed for this study would be open to sorting out PET thermoforms if certain market conditions were met,” said Lynn Rubenstein, executive director of Northeast Recycling Council. Conditions include reliable market outlets willing to pay enough. “While MRFs offer near-term recovery opportunities, with about 500 MRFs in the U.S. — all a little different in terms of volumes, space and access to markets — it would be a challenge to achieve the scale needed to substantially increase recovery,” added Rubenstein.

In addition to examining volumes and logistical considerations, the study estimated the additional costs associated with each pathway. “Each time you sort, bale and move a post-consumer material, such as a PET thermoform-only stream, you add costs that need to be accommodated in the material’s market value,” said Steve Alexander, executive director of the Association of Plastic Recyclers. “Unlike capital investments, these costs are ongoing for certain material pathways, so we scrutinized these sorts of marginal costs as part of our assessment.”

Building on the results of this research, the partners are now working to define the next phase of work, which could include focused pilots to test strategies to address remaining technical and market questions to determine the most promising pathway to PET thermoform recycling.

Study Shows Safety, Sanitation at Forefront for Foodservice Packaging Since COVID-19 Onset

The 12th annual Trends Report from the Foodservice Packaging Institute revealed that industry opinions are largely focused on safe and sanitary foodservice packaging to meet consumer demand driven by COVID-19 concerns.

“In recent years, respondents were mainly focused on sustainability and environmental issues. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the attention has shifted to safety and sanitation,” said Natha Dempsey, president of FPI. “Seeking safe and sanitary solutions in the face of infectious disease are the exact reasons why foodservice packaging was created in the first place — to reduce touch points and keep our on-the-go food and beverages secure. All, of course, while providing the modern-day necessities of convenience and mobility.”

Respondents also revealed a major trend is the accelerated development of contactless foodservice. Apps, QR codes and online ordering increased in an effort to lessen touch points between patrons and employees. Packaging products that could create a barrier between individuals and food saw increased use, as restaurants looked for ways to reduce exposure. Foodservice packaging that is “tamper-evident” and “tamper-resistant” have seen gains; with those who had been manufacturing before the pandemic widening their offerings and new foodservice packaging companies placing products into the marketplace.

The survey also revealed that the prominent role foodservice packaging has played throughout the COVID-19 crisis has also led to a rise in misinformation due to the constant use of packaging. Restaurants being limited to take-out and delivery, coupled with many consumers being offered only one avenue for disposal as homes became the primary destination for work, home and play, has led to distortion about how much foodservice packaging is being produced, used and disposed of.

“Foodservice packaging products are being used out of necessity and restaurant survival. However, gains made in the carry-out and delivery space have not been offset by restaurant closures and reduced foot traffic,” said Dempsey.

“The results of the 2020 Trends Report show us that this has been an extremely unpredictable year,” said Dempsey. “But what has been predictable is emphasis on safe and sanitary packaging, which keeps people safe while they enjoy food and drink, wherever they may go… or stay… will continue to be the primary driver for the foodservice packaging industry.”

For over a decade, the Trends Report is FPI’s reflection on the latest industry happenings. The FPI survey collected opinions from companies throughout the foodservice packaging supply chain, including raw material and machinery suppliers, packaging manufacturers, distributors and operators.

The first section of the report compiles direct comments and insights by industry players. The second section provides high-level trends in the foodservice packaging industry based on FPI staff analysis of member submissions, as well as FPI’s general industry observations.

The Foodservice Packaging Institute’s 2020 Trends Report is available only to FPI members. Non-members may view an executive summary online on FPI’s website.

Florida’s Collier County Adds Foam Polystyrene to Recycling Drop-Off Program

Residents and businesses in Collier County, Florida, will now have the opportunity to recycle foam polystyrene through the county’s drop-off collection sites, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition. The county’s program will focus on receiving foam food trays, colored foam and white bulk packaging foam from local commercial businesses and residents.

The new grant funding allows Collier County to purchase and install a foam densifier, train its employees, and begin community education and outreach for their program. “We’re excited to receive this grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition,” said Taylor Sawatzky, Project Manager for Collier County Solid & Hazardous Waste Management Division. “Our new foam densifier will allow us to collect this new material from our five county sites, providing more recycling access for our residents and allowing the county to divert more material from our landfill.”

Collier County is one of the largest counties by land size in the state of Florida and serves about 381,000 residents. The county’s Solid & Hazardous Waste Management Division manages all commercial and residential solid waste functions, including operating five recycling centers, one transfer station, one hazardous materials collection center, and one landfill. At most locations, residents and businesses can bring cardboard, batteries, oil, gasoline, metal and soon, foam polystyrene products.

“Collier County has shown a progressive approach toward diverting as much material as possible from disposal,” said Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, which houses the Foam Recycling Coalition. “The latest efforts in pursuing foam recycling will allow these valuable materials to be recovered from residents and businesses instead of being thrown away.”

The grant is made possible through contributions to the FRC, which focuses exclusively on increased recycling of post-consumer foam polystyrene. Its members include Americas Styrenics; Cascades Canada ULC; CKF Inc.; Chick-fil-A; Dart Container Corp.; Dolco Packaging; Dyne-A-Pak; Genpak; INEOS Styrolution America LLC; NOVA Chemicals Corp.; Pactiv Foodservice/Food Packaging; Republic Plastics; and TOTAL Petrochemicals & Refining USA.

Collier County is the 15th grant recipient to receive FRC funding since 2015. Over 4 million additional residents in the U.S. and Canada can recycle foam as a result of FRC grants. Visit www.RecycleFoam.org to learn about foam recycling, read about previous recipients, or apply for a grant.

Industry Experts Unite to Define PET Thermoform Packaging Recycling Pathways Released 7/9/2020

The Foodservice Packaging Institute has organized a group of industry partners to examine recycling of PET thermoform packaging. The group is conducting a study to further understand the PET thermoform packaging recycling stream and define the most cost-effective and practical pathways for recovering it.

Through the study, the group hopes to establish a common understanding of the most impactful opportunities to increase PET thermoform recycling. PET thermoform packaging includes cups, lids, clamshells, bowls, produce, deli, bakery and take-out containers, as well as other types of consumer packaging.
In partnership with FPI, the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) The Recycling Partnership and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) will pool data and resources to gain a more thorough understanding of this complex issue. The study is being conducted by Resource Recycling Systems (RRS).
“Each partner has been working to increase recycling of PET thermoforms in different ways, so it’s important to bring all parties together to find a solution,” said Natha Dempsey, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute. “While we’re making progress, it just makes sense to combine efforts to define a unified path to increased recyclability for PET thermoforms.”

Project partner NAPCOR reports that the volume of PET thermoform material recycled in the U.S. surpassed 100 million pounds in 2018. Most of this volume was captured in curbside PET bottle bales and processed with bottles by PET reclaimers who accept them at up to specified percentages of the bale weight. However, as thermoform recycling increases, so does the prevalence of thermoforms in residential PET bales, bumping up against the limits of PET bottle reclaimer acceptance levels. The study will further explore this, along with other potential PET thermoform recovery pathways.

“We know there is a shortfall of available postconsumer recycled PET to meet stated content goals. PET thermoforms offer significant performance benefits to consumers and producers and can help increase the overall supply of this valuable raw material,” said Darrel Collier, executive director of the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). “Our research indicates that PET thermoforms can, and are being recycled, though they do pose some technical and logistical collection and sorting challenges. We are pleased to join with our colleagues to explore and overcome these challenges.”

This project will explore the potential limitations and obstacles, viability, costs and related metrics of PET thermoform curbside recycling and other potential recycling pathways. Recycled PET thermoforms can be utilized in the manufacture of new PET containers, strapping and other types of packaging, as well as in polyester fiber applications.
“Common food items are sold in PET thermoform containers and the desire of the public to contribute to the environment through recycling drives their expectations to recycle this material,” noted Lynn Rubinstein, executive director, NERC. “These packages are being put in recycling containers and often treated as a contaminant. Finding a positive economic solution to productive recycling will help the industry and the economy.”

“PET thermoforms represent a viable feedstock to feed the growing demand for recycled PET resin,” said Steve Alexander, president and CEO of the Association of Plastic Recyclers. “We are hearing from more and more markets that are interested in using this recycled material; now we need to figure out how to get it to them.”
This study will utilize combined partner organization knowledge pertaining to potential technical, logistical and market obstacles to increasing PET thermoform recycling, building on collective work to date.

“Americans want to recycle their plastic packaging, but don’t always know what is and isn’t recyclable. Brands are committed to using more recycled PET in their packaging, but need the valuable supply from curbside recycling,” said Liz Bedard, senior director of industry collaboration at The Recycling Partnership. “Finding the pathway to collect and recycle PET thermoforms will allow communities to increase recycling rates and, at the same time, provide a valuable recycled material to the industry.”
“Brands and packaging companies are committed to improving the sustainability of packaging,” said Adam Gendell, associate director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. “Working with groups that represent the entire supply chain, we can find recycling pathways for PET thermoforms and improve the sustainability profile of this important type of packaging.”

The study is expected to be completed in the fall of 2020.

Austin Expands Operations to Recycle More Foam Packaging

Austin Resource Recovery (ARR), a department of the City of Austin, received a $45,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC). This grant will increase the city’s capacity to manage and process more post-consumer foam polystyrene, including foodservice packaging and protective packaging for recycling.