The fruit and vegetable growing sector is opting more and more for wood when packaging its produce and, for this reason, this material seems to have become the latest trend. But neither farmers, nor fruit and vegetable exporters would use wood if they were not completely certain of its many advantages and properties compared to other materials.
One of its strong and most attractive points lies in the durability and resistance of wood over long distance journeys. David Navalón, Vice-chairman of the Spanish Wooden Packaging and Components Federation (FEDEMCO) and manager of Envases Navalón, affirms that wood gives “safety” to exporters who do not want to risk that, after a long journey and having taken on some high costs in the container and the shipping method, the product arrives in bad conditions due to a problem with the packaging.
This durability and resistance during the transport is obtained thanks to its sturdiness and to the hygroscopic capacity of the wood that makes it maintain the correct humidity when chilled. This guarantees that the fruit will remain dry throughout its shipping and marketing processes. Navalón adds that wood is “antibacterial, which means it absorbs the impurities and bacteria from the fruit,” which after forty days “continues to be in perfect conditions.”
Likewise, Memén Cerveró, Head of Communications at Fedemco, refers to another of its advantages: “Wood pre-cools faster. And if you have to put the produce in cold storage rooms, it reaches the expected temperature faster than other packaging.”
From the Federation, they put special emphasis on two specific terms which, in their opinion are the true virtues of wooden packaging: the circular bio-economy and real sustainability.
And the fact is that wooden packaging today comes from cultivated forests of trees planted eight years before. “We are the material in this sector that is based on a renewable resource that comes from nature itself,” known as a ‘bio-based’ material, Cerveró explains. “We have created this nature; we have consumed the carbon; we have generated oxygen and we make a clean product, without any water footprint. And until this product completely disappears, it continues to contain the carbon inside it,” he adds.
The life cycle of wood
“Every millimetre of wood that we use in our packaging is renewable and is used again,” Navalón states. The concept of circular bioeconomy precisely refers to the fact that the wooden packaging is continuously being transformed into new products; meaning that its life cycle is not reduced to a single use, but even the smallest piece of wood has another life and can be reused.
“It can be turned into a block on a pallet, into a board; it can be a component for compacting septic tanks. In some countries, such as Belgium, Germany or France, it is used as energy and in a number of European Union countries other packaging components are being made with wood chippings.”
At FEDEMCO, they want to underscore one of the aspects that is unknown by the population regarding wooden packaging: if it is recycled, it must go in the yellow container and not the blue one. “The problem lies in the individual packaging, in the households. People do not know where to put this waste and, therefore, we are carrying out a communication campaign. It is a recyclable packaging, and it goes in the yellow container,” Navalón concludes.