Feature - Q&A
No! RPCs have been used to ship fresh produce from farms to grocery stores worldwide for nearly 30 years. In fact, in Europe, approximately 75% of grocery retailers receive fresh produce in RPCs (it's about half that amount in the US). This is because environmental sustainability has been a major concern in Europe for a long time already.
Keep in mind that while recycling is good, reusing is better (according to the EPA). This is because it still takes additional resources to recycle boxes and remake them into new boxes. Most grocers are very good about recycling what they can, yes. But many of the boxes used to ship produce are coated in wax and other materials that make them unsuitable for recycling, so they must be landfilled.
RPC companies have to follow all the same laws as other food contact packaging, and many go even further with extremely rigorous inspection and cleaning processes. RPCs are sanitized on every return trip - they're inspected, scraped and pressure washed with hot water (by the way, the water used for this is filtered and reused also, to minimize water consumption). Once completely sanitized, RPCs are stacked and wrapped in protective plastic for shipment back to growers for reuse.
Here are some grocers using RPCs in North America and throughout the world:
RPCs are a great fit for just about any fresh product because they help keep delicate items fresh and protected throughout shipping. Models have been developed for meat, bread, deli items, eggs ... the sky is the limit!
All of the RPCs you see in the US for fresh produce are black. In Europe, they are green. The difference has to do with consumer preferences in these markets.
Perhaps you already have a friend in the produce department that you could ask. If not, you could ask either the Produce Manager or Store Manager if they are using RPCs.
Some stores do use what is called a "One Touch" method -- in other words, the produce goes into the RPCs at the field, cooled as needed and then transported to the stores for display. Using this method, fresh produce never leaves the protection of the RPC! Other grocers choose to remove produce from RPCs to display in their own way. One Touch is preferred of course, but either way the produce is better protected overall.