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STI Group creates smoked fish corrugated cardboard packaging to cut carbon emissions

#STI Group creates smoked fish corrugated cardboard packaging to cut carbon emissions

14 Nov 2023 — German-based company Ferdinand Bierbichler has partnered with STI Group to convert its 1 kg smoked fish packaging from styrofoam to corrugated cardboard to meet the hygiene requirements for the smoked fish market for reusable packaging. 

The solution is a compact packaging design made from virgin fiber corrugated cardboard, protected from grease by a water-based barrier coating suitable for direct food contact. 

The companies aimed to significantly reduce the previous packaging volume and optimize its recyclability while saving costs and CO2.

“We are proud to be the first company to successfully switch from styrofoam to corrugated cardboard packaging for smoked fish. As a medium-sized family business, we always want to develop further and break new ground. The STI Group, with its Circular Innovation team, is exactly the right partner for this,” Dominik Raser, head of production at Ferdinand Bierbichler, tells Packaging Insights.

Increasing recyclability
Raser says he envisioned a future without large-format EPS boxes. 

“Where possible, we wanted to replace the plastic in our packaging with materials made from renewable raw materials with a very good recycling cycle. Therefore, corrugated cardboard packaging with a barrier coating is ideal for us,” says the head of production.

Two stacks of white boxes next to eachother.Filled shipping volume is reduced by 53% using the new corrugated trays (right) compared to the old polystyrene boxes (left). “Added to this was the immense storage volume of expanded polystyrene boxes, which we reduced by 92% by switching to corrugated cardboard packaging delivered flat. The new packaging offers us an enormous advantage here.”

When empty, the corrugated packaging takes up 92% less storage space than its polystyrene predecessor, while its shipping volume, when filled with fish, is 53% less.

“We take a holistic optimization approach, looking at everything from the product to logistics and material cycles when developing new packaging,” adds Jakob Rinninger, CEO of STI Group.

Maintaining freshness
The fish remains wrapped in waxed paper for better handling, and the pack is sealed with an anti-fog film. The CO2 footprint of the corrugated packaging material is around 60% lower than for styrofoam, asserts the company. Furthermore, the new packaging costs less than half the styrofoam version it replaces. 

Styrofoam boxes provide insulation that allows goods to be kept at the desired temperature for longer. However, this aspect is irrelevant to Ferdinand Bierbichler’s logistics process, as the company can ensure that the cold chain is maintained from production to retail [with the new boxes],” continues Raser.

“The packaging is only used to transport the smoked fish from the factory to the retailer. There, the product is removed from the packaging while maintaining the cold chain and placed in the fish counter for sale.” 

The empty corrugated cardboard box is easily recycled with waste paper, while the film sleeve is sorted into plastic waste. Now that the first container size has been successfully replaced, the next step is to address corrugated solutions for the 2.5 and 4 kg fish boxes. 

STI Group explains that fishmongers and retailers are also utilizing the new solution as it reduces their storage volumes and recycling costs.

By Sabine Waldeck 

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