Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) has been around for three decades already and in recent years it has gained acceptance, as the market appreciates its performance preserving the freshness of fresh produce and reducing waste in the logistic chains. Alongside with the benefits also comes the cost which is derived among others from the additional labor required for the packing process, the plastic waste created and the cost of the packaging itself.
ROP’s recent project ( together with Mr. Shay Zeltzer of Postharvest Hub) has been around MAP since the mid 90’s, developing packaging and implementing post-harvest best practice wherever fresh produce has been handled, farms, packing houses throughout the logistic chain to the retail, on pomegranate has led to the development of the revolutionary Ultra-thin MA film addressing the challenges that still exist with MAP – packaging cost, operation and environmental impact.
The new packaging developed also adds to the food safety and performance of the packaging preserving the conditions of the produce within. Often times you’d see packing houses where an employee is busy placing bags into carton, opening them and stacking it to save time for the packers that would later on fill these bags with produce. Piles of cartons with bags open in them are evident in warehouses before and during the packing season. This practice potentially has negative impact for several reasons: it allows germs and fungus to rest in the open bag during the time it ‘waits’ to be filled and it also costly requires an additional labor employed to prepare the bags in the cartons.
The packaging developed, Ultra-thin MA film, is either manually wrapped around the produce in bulk packaging application or alternatively machine-wrapped around a single produce item (broccoli, cauliflower, melon, cabbage etc.) in retail packaging form.
The trial conducted in the lab of ROP, pomegranate’s freshness and appealing presentation was preserved for over 4 months using Ultra-thin MA film. The packing material is provided in a roll-stock. The film is pulled over the carton first like a sheet over a bed, the pomegranate is then placed and packed after which the film is trimmed and wrapped around the whole content of the box, forming an air-tight sealed packaging.
The ability to extrude multilayer film that is so thin yet uniform in its gauge (12 microns or 0.47 mil), which is still durable and has superior humidity management attributes is not at all trivial adds Dr. Wentao Gia, ROP‘s polymer technologist. This film presents a revolution in the industry as it cuts over 50% of the packaging material used compare to other existing bulk packaging. So important considering the loads of plastic waste contaminating earth.