Plastic Make it Possible® Honors 30th National Frozen Food Month
Washington, D.C. (March 14, 2013)—During the 30th National Frozen Food Month this March, Plastics Make it Possible® is honoring innovations in plastics that help deliver convenient and nutritious frozen foods—particularly those innovations that have led to less packaging and food waste.
Frozen food packaging has changed dramatically since the 1920s when Clarence Birdseye developed methods for quick freezing foods. While frozen foods today are packaged in many materials, technological advances coupled with the rise of the microwave have made plastics the go-to choice for many frozen foods, from vegetable medleys to ready-to-heat meals to gourmet ice cream.
“By helping preserve fresh flavors and nutrients in frozen foods, plastic packaging often leads to less food waste,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council, which sponsors the Plastics Make it Possible® initiative. “And thin, lightweight plastic packaging also leads to less packaging waste. So consumers can save more food and grocery money and create less waste.”
For example, many frozen ready-to-heat meals such as stir-fries now are packaged in thin, lightweight plastics that help preserve freshness. Consumers can create quick and easy meals using minimalist packaging that can be scrunched up to about the size of a poker chip.
Some examples of how plastics have contributed to the evolution of frozen foods:
- Freezer-to-Microwave TV Dinners: In the early days of frozen TV dinners, meals could take an hour to heat in the oven. But with the advent of the microwave oven, frozen food makers began packaging frozen meals on trays made with plastics that could stand up to both cold and heat. Dinners now can go from freezer to microwave and be prepared in minutes, requiring less preparation time and energy. And a growing number of U.S. communities collect these trays for recycling, resulting in less valuable materials in landfills.
- Airtight Freezer Foods: Under-protected food stored in the freezer absorbs nasty odors and flavors and then dries out, resulting in “freezer burn” and wasted food. Factory sealed plastic bags and containers help preserve the flavor, texture and nutrients of food by locking out air. So consumers can enjoy nutritious fruits and vegetables year round, buy wild caught salmon from Alaska and find all sorts of prepared meals that were unavailable only a few years ago—packaged in thin, lightweight plastics.
- Plastic Steamer Bags: Many frozen food makers now sell a large variety of side and main dishes in lightweight plastic pouches designed for heating in the microwave. Consumers simply place the frozen package in the microwave, and moisture steams the food inside plastic pouch—in one simple step, with less cleanup and little waste. Consumers themselves also can buy similarly designed plastic zipper bags to easily and quickly steam their own meals in the microwave.
- “Active” Packaging: Sometimes called “intelligent” or “smart” packaging, active packaging helps protect both fresh and frozen food by doing more than simply containing it. For example, antimicrobials can be incorporated into the plastics used in packaging—this can help mitigate the growth of harmful microorganisms, which helps preserve food quality and results in less spoilage and waste.
- Recycled Plastic Packaging: Thanks to new recycling technologies, some frozen food makers are using recycled plastics in their packaging. One major frozen food maker uses plastics from recycled plastic bottles in frozen meal trays for several of its food brands; the company says this diverts an estimated 8 million plastic bottles from landfills annually. And of course these plastic trays are lightweight, which reduces fuel consumption in transport.
- Do-it-Yourself Frozen Foods: Just what did we do before handy plastic zipper bags? Today’s consumers can place homemade meals, store-bought foods and leftovers in zipper bags and purge much of the air before freezing (pre-wrapping foods in plastic stretch wrap also helps). To take this concept even further, home vacuum sealers remove nearly all air from the plastic bag prior to sealing, which better protects food to reduce waste. Home vacuum sealing with plastics has grown considerably in recent years—it’s particularly popular with warehouse store shoppers and game hunters.
For more information on innovations in plastic packaging, visit It’s a Wrap.
About Plastics Make it Possible®
Plastics Make it Possible® highlights the many ways plastics inspire innovations that improve our lives, solve big problems, and help us design a safer, more promising future. This initiative is sponsored by America’s Plastics MakersTM of the American Chemistry Council. For more information, visit www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com, check out our Facebook page and follow us @plasticpossible on twitter at www.twitter.com/plasticpossible.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people’s lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $760 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation’s economy. It is the largest exporting sector in the U.S., accounting for 12 percent of U.S. exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.