ConAgra Foods, makers of a number of popular frozen food brands including Healthy Choice and Marie Callender's have started incorporating post-consumer recycled plastic into its frozen meal trays. The move is estimated to divert 8 million pounds of plastic from landfills annually.
ConAgra Foods has begun to use between 30 percent and 40 percent post-consumer recycled plastic in nearly all of its frozen meal trays for Healthy Choice, Banquet, Kid Cuisine and Marie Callender's products.
Most frozen meals trays used by other companies are made of crystallized PET plastic, a material that uses only newly produced plastics and that requires more energy and resources to produce. ConAgra Foods is the only company in North America using post-consumer recycled plastic in frozen meal trays.
Post-consumer recycled plastic is packaging that has been used by consumers that primarily is sent to landfills, such as plastic bottles. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only about 30 percent of plastic soda bottles are recycled each year. Through these new meal trays, ConAgra Foods will use at least 8 million pounds of post-consumer recycled plastic annually.
ConAgra Foods partnered with Associated Packaging Technologies to utilize a new technology that cleans recycled plastic for use as a component in frozen meal trays. Older plastics technologies limited food companies to using only new plastic to comply with regulations for direct food contact materials. The new ultra-clean processing technology makes it safe for consumers to eat the prepared food directly from the frozen meal trays.
The new trays are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as direct food contact materials.
"Our commitment to innovation means we are looking at all aspects of our products as we consider new ways to improve them, including finding ways to be more environmentally responsible," said Gail Tavill, ConAgra Foods vice president, Sustainability.
"As a leading packaged foods company, ConAgra Foods can make a positive impact on the environment by finding new ways to reduce waste, and our new frozen meal trays with post-consumer recycled plastic will ensure that the equivalent of 128 million 20-ounce plastic bottles won't go to landfills each year."