Although there is a heightened awareness and pressure from consumers and supermarkets, particularly in Europe, to limit plastics and other carbon-emission heavy items, Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, and many in the South African apple and pear industry, have for some years now been actively working to reduce the environmental cost of fruit production.

A significant decline in fruit greenhouse gas emissions

In the last few drought seasons, the lack of water has been the primary focus and Tru-Cape’s owners, Ceres Fruit Growers and Two-a-Day, have successfully limited water usage within the processing facilities. Growers have done the same by overhauling irrigation and even adjusting planting practices at farm level. 

Reducing plastic use has also been on the agenda for some time, so, a recent study by the World Wildlife Fund that recognises the strides already made, is good news.

Lorren de Kock, of the WWF says a lifecycle assessment (LCA) was done to determine the greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram apples and pears for years 2000, 2010 and 2020. The inventory for the study included the farm, pack house, CA store and cold store stages with all relevant inputs.

“The inputs for all stages covered electricity use, diesel, fertilisers, pesticides and packaging, among others, aligned to other international LCA studies on fruit. It was found that there is a significant decline in greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram fruit from the year 2000 to 2010 with a predicted further decline from 2010 to 2020.

Relatively high carbon content detected

“This finding is important due to the relatively high embedded carbon content of South African products and the shift in export markets such as the European union to more environmentally sustainable purchasing which could lead to soft trade barriers on products with high embedded carbon. This research finds that the embedded carbon content of South African apples and pears, which, in the past, had relatively high carbon emissions per kilogram compared to other producing countries, is declining rapidly which is advantageous to the international trade of this fruit.”

Environmentally friendly alternatives

Amanda Fisher of Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing is spearheading the company’s focus on reducing plastics even further. “We are working closely with our global customers who, like us, want to further limit the use of ‘hard to recycle plastic’ in fruit packaging.

“We have various trials underway to try to move to a polyethylene films instead of polypropylene film, which is hard to recycle. We have also re-looked at where we can cut back unnecessary use of plastics, such as the protective bubble sheets used in the flow-wrapping packs for our UK clients. Furthermore, we have significantly cut down on the amount of plastic bubble sheets we use, while still maintaining protection for the fruit to prevent bruising.”

According to Fisher, Tru-Cape is very aware of the ever-increasing demand for plastic reduction and the responsible use of plastic for all purposes and for the use of more environmentally friendly alternatives, all of which are burning issues.

New strategies on the cards

In light of this, Tru-Cape formed a work group this year to strategise ways on how to reduce plastic within our chain while still maintaining the quality of the fruit. “We need to keep in mind, with the increasing pressures of plastic reduction, that we still need to maintain the best environment and quality of our fruit for the end customer. We are considering all these aspects as we strategise and put together our plan and goals and are cautiously optimistic about our findings.” she concludes. – Press release, Tru-Cape