Browne Turns to Green: Recyclable Packing Materials

Browne Trading Co. Works to Introduce Recyclable Shipping Materials

Browne Trading was among the first in our industry to perfect the overnight air shipping of seafood perishables. Through trial and error, Browne discovered and developed the right packaging methods, materials and coolants to successfully ship fresh and live seafood – effectively “pioneering” the overnight shipping of the freshest fish and seafood to chefs and home gourmets around the United States. While this seems commonplace in today’s world of overnight commerce, consider the limitations of Priority Delivery twenty years ago (neither UPS nor FedEx had the depth of routes nor variety of services that exists today) nor did Internet commerce for non-perishable (let alone fresh seafood!) even exist yet.

Then – And Now

Fish in Box
Fresh Fish Gets Packed for Ground Delivery

The development of our then “cutting edge” packaging coupled with the growing availability of overnight deliveries to both cities and rural areas allowed Browne Trading to expand its customer base and we began to effectively “mail order” fish outside of our traditional ground trucking routes to new restaurant clientele as well as home retail customers by the late 1990’s.  Browne’s ability to be successful in not only procuring fresh seafood and caviar, but actually getting it reliably and fast to our customers, established the foundation of success that we continue to rely on today. But many of the packing materials traditional to our industry – namely plastic, “Styrofoam”, and wax boxes – were sadly far from recyclable. Recycling centers and a general awareness of best recycling practices were not as commonplace nationally then as today – and even now alternative renewable packaging remains largely new to much of the Seafood Packaging industry. The ability to ship products in waterproof, food grade insulation packaging continues on to be a challenge from the perspective of recycling.

Browne is conscious of these issues and is taking steps to reduce our global footprint. We are making progress in finding materials that can meet the standards of being food grade quality, durable in transport, can hold temperature and be waterproof – all while (ideally) being recyclable, renewable, and even biodegradable.

New Recyclable Materials

Here are a few of our packing materials that are 100% recyclable:

Sardines in Fillet Trays
Sardines Packed to Ship in New Biodegradable Fillet Tray

Fillet Trays – We have recently invested in new fillet trays that are not only 100% recyclable, but also fully Biodegradable. Made of a revolutionary plastic resin, these trays can biodegrade anaerobically and aerobically in landfills and compost piles(backyard and commercial alike) in as little as 9 months. They do not require any special handling, nor contain any heavy metals often found in most oxodegradable products. These trays breakdown to become part of the organic components of the soil they are placed in – the same as sticks or other pieces of wood.

Sustainable Forestry InitiativeBoxes for Air Freight Delivery – These Boxes are 100% recyclable and bear the stamp of the Sustainable Forest Initiative’s “Certified Sourcing”. The certified sourcing label tells you that fiber used to produce the box comes from a company that conforms with Fiber Sourcing Standards[i], or comes from pre- or post-consumer recycled content, or from a certified forest. All fibers used to make these boxes must be from non-controversial sources.

Insulation Liners – What most of us would consider “Styrofoam” is actually expanded polystyrene (EPS). Used to line our shipping boxes, this material both serves as an insulator and shock absorber for shipping our Seafood Products. Considered environmentally safe and sustainable, it is widely recognized as a safe choice for use in food contact packaging by most government regulatory agencies. Some of the benefits of EPS are:

  • Recycled already to reduce waste and save energy. As the recycled content of EPS packaging increases (10% recycled content is typical; up to 20% is possible), energy use decreases 3% to 13%.
  • Recyclable again to create new foam packaging or other polystyrene products such as video cassettes, toys, office supplies and packing peanuts.
  • Safe in landfills, producing no toxic by-products and encouraging plant growth by helping to aerate the soil. EPS makes up less than 1% of the solid waste disposed in U.S. landfills.
  • Safe to incinerate, with no toxic emissions. Only carbon dioxide, water vapor and a trace amount of ash are given off when EPS is burned.[ii]

EPS Materials are coded as “Plastic #6” and can be complicated to recycle as not every community curbside recycling program accepts them. To locate a Drop-Off Center in your area, click here or visit

AquaSafe® Boxes – Newly introduced to Browne Trading Co, International Paper’s “AquaSafe®” recyclable containers are designed as an alternative to wax coated boxes that are not recyclable. Replacing wax with a  waterproof poly-laminated liner, these fiber boxes can sustain being packed with ice and are approved for airline shipment. While most of the seafood industry globally remains dependent upon wax boxes for shipping (they remain the industry standard for durability, water tightness, and affordability), new products such as the “AquaSafe®” are the first steps to replacing these traditional packing methods that are non-recyclable.

Chill Pak Gel Ice – Integral to our success in the overnight shipping of seafood and caviar, these coolant packs are non-toxic and can be refreezed and reused repeatedly. Their outer film is 100% recyclable, and the internal gel disintegrates in the sunlight and turns to water. Some manufacturers even suggest it be used for plant irrigation and that it be emptied into the garden. I keep mine in my freezer and use them to pack up the cooler for trips to the beach.

Boxes for Air Freight Line
Boxes Designed for Air Freight Line the Packing Floor at Browne Trading

With such a large volume of packing materials used in our daily operations (and in our industry at large), Browne Trading Co. recognizes the impact many of these products have on our environment. We remain committed to finding shipping materials that not only ensure that our quality products arrive to our customers in the best condition and optimal temperature, but are also as responsibly produced and reusable as possible.

Of course, to see that these materials are all properly recycled after delivery, we rely on our customers to employ best practice recycling efforts on these materials at their restaurant or home. Without your participation and commitment, the advances in recyclable packaging materials will go to waste. For some recycling tips and inspiration, I found to be a useful visit.

~ Nick Branchina, Director of Marketing