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How Bumble Bee Seafood Partners with Retailers to Increase Recycling

(Credit: Bumble Bee)

The 122-year-old San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafood Company is increasingly focused on recycling and sustainability. 

What are the catalysts behind your sustainable packaging initiatives? 

“Our company is committed to ensuring ocean abundance so that seafood – tuna included – can remain a long-term source of nutrition for our global population,” says Leslie Hushka, senior vice president for social responsibility at Bumble Bee. “That’s why we partnered with machine manufacturer R.A. Jones to implement a recyclable solution to our multipack can product packaging. Previously, our multipack products were wrapped in shrink wrap and as of this month, they are now packaged in readily recyclable paperboard cartons. This shift from shrink wrap to paperboard will help us continue to meet our commitment to keeping plastic out of landfills and out of the ocean.”

The change from shrink wrap to paperboard applies to all of its multipacks — from 4 to 12 cans. The paperboard is made from 100% recycled material, with a minimum of 35% post-consumer content, and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. That means that the multipack can product packaging is fully recyclable – both the box exterior and the cans inside.

Bumble Bee coordinated with consumers and retailers. The retailers told it that they would benefit from the new package design. That’s because the recyclable package also helps retailers move toward their own sustainability goals, including plastic waste reduction. And consumers have always asked for sustainable packaging choices that make recycling easier. Bumble Bee’s design allows them to more easily do just that. 

“The packaging change makes Bumble Bee the first shelf-stable seafood brand to change its multipack can product packaging from shrink wrap to readily recyclable paperboard cartons,” says Hushka. “We are the first in the industry to make this move but we anticipate we will not be the last. We are proud to be able to say that this change moves our brand from 96% to 98% readily recyclable packaging, surpassing our goal timeline by 3 years and eliminating an estimated 23 million pieces of plastic waste per year.” 

Any obstacles to achieving success?

Bumble Bee says the project has been in the works for a few years, and the company has invested a lot of resources into its sustainability efforts — particularly at the factory level. Lining up the supply chain is part of the process. As is getting the right technologies in place. Its partner, R.A. Jones, has helped it execute the shift. That includes the development of the custom machine, the installation in its Santa Fe Springs factory in December, and the roll-out plan.

But it is a never-ending quest. And the food maker says that it is on board the sustainability ship — the one that makes it easier for both consumers and retailers to recycle. 

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