Almost two years ago, Frosta announced its departure from plastic bags and caused a sensation in the frozen food industry. However, the switch to paper as a packaging material is stalling. But the company intends to stick to its goal and gradually phase out the use of plastic bags.
In an exposed glass display case, the company delo: Dettmer Verpackungen GmbH presents a bag of the Frosta frozen meal “Wild Salmon & Pea Pasta with Colorful Vegetables” at the FACHPACK packaging trade fair in Nuremberg. The packaging company is supporting the sustainability line of the leading German frozen food manufacturer with a frosted film. The special feature of the material is its matt finish, it is said.
But the fact that the material is plastic and not paper is a matter of course for the packaging experts. Even though Frosta had presented the first paper bag for frozen food packaging in 2019. The new paper bags, made of an “innovative mix of materials,” had been elaborately developed over a period of three years and were to gradually replace plastic packaging for vegetable mixes and ready meals in 2020. When announcing the project, Frosta had spoken of a “revolution in the frozen food aisle” and said “goodbye to plastic bags.” But then, there were difficulties with implementation, as CEO Felix Ahlers admitted in February 2021 on the occasion of the presentation of the financial statements. Ingredients such as soy sauce or beet juice seeped through the paper bag over time, he said. The barrier against fat and moisture was made by “a purely physical processing of the paper.”
Only four vegetable mixes in paper bags so far
Only four vegetable mixes have so far been converted from plastic packaging to paper bags by the frozen food manufacturer. In the end, it should be a total of around 50 products and thus 40 million plastic packages. For the goal has remained: “We are continuing to work on converting the other bag products, which are currently still in PE packaging that can be recycled by type. This packaging is already very sustainable if it is actually recycled. Unfortunately, the recycling rate for plastic is still far too low. That’s why we are continuing to work on the paper bag for all pouch packaging,” Frosta spokeswoman Friederike Ahlers told Packaging360° in response to an inquiry.
Environmental associations praised the goal, but some experts have followed the paper bag changeover with skepticism from the beginning. Their argument: the previous plastic packaging could be easily recycled. For years, Frosta has been using only one type of pure material, which can easily be sorted out of the yellow bags and then processed into plastic granulate.
Mono-material plastic is easy to recycle
This is what the Frosta company writes about these plastic bags: “We are quite proud of this bag, even though it is made of plastic: after all, it is not made of just any plastic, but of a mono-material that can be excellently recycled.” He said that in collaboration with Green Dot, as part of the “Design for Recycling” project, they had studied the entire life cycle of pouch packaging, from the selection of raw materials to recycling. “Together, we managed to improve the carbon footprint by 30 percent and reduce material consumption by ten percent!” he said. “That may not sound like much now, but it equates to around 700 tons of packaging material saved each year.”