Wakefern uses reusable plastic containers for fresh produce

Wakefern Food Corp. aims to reduce food and plastic waste in the product departments of stores through the use of reusable plastic containers (RPCs).

The grocery retail cooperative in Keasbey, New Jersey, whose supermarket banner is ShopRite, announced Thursday that it has partnered with IFCO Systems, Tosca, and other RPC-specialist companies to ensure the quality and sustainability of fresh fruit and Improve vegetables and cut costs for buyers.

RPCs offer more effective product protection and temperature control, according to Wakefern, thereby maximizing supply chain efficiency. The highly ventilated, foldable and robust designs of the containers ensure more freshness and save time, space and money for senders. And in warehouses, RPCs provide better storage and handling of products through efficient stacking and integration with automated processes, resulting in less potential food loss and waste compared to traditional single-use packaging, the company found.

Compared to single-use packaging, RPCs generate less carbon dioxide and solid waste, and use less energy and less water to manufacture, Wakefern reported. Quoting data from the Association of the plastics industry, the cooperative said RPCs and recycled plastic products use 66% less energy than comparable items made from raw plastic material.

“The introduction of reusable RPCs is a win for our customers, our suppliers, the environment and wakefern,” said Robert Zühlke, manager of corporate social responsibility at Wakefern, in a statement. “Wakefern is focused on attracting vendors whose products contribute to a more sustainable future by reducing the environmental impact of packaging, food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Compared to single-use packaging, RPCs like Tosca’s offer more effective product protection and temperature control, Wakefern said.

The use of RPCs fits in with the current waste reduction and Sustainability initiatives at Wakefern and its retail stores. Wakefern’s recycling center has processed more than 2.6 million tons of material since it opened in the late 1970s, and in 2020 the cooperative’s branches recycled 128,648 tons of wax and corrugated cardboard, 421 tons of newsprint, 132 tons of office paper, and 38 tons of metal. ShopRite has also composted over 8,200 tons of food waste in stores.

On the consumer side, at the end of last year, ShopRite launched private label products with a special How2Recycle label developed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. The label informs customers about the proper disposal of all packaging parts and components of the product. Articles with How2Recycle include Paperbird paper goods and household cleaners as well as Bowl & Basket groceries and dairy products.

Wakefern is the country’s largest retail-owned cooperative and has a network of 362 supermarkets in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island at ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market Banners. ShopRite’s nearly 280 stores are located in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland.

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