Sambrailo Packaging made history back in 1987 when it introduced the very first plastic clamshell package for produce—a package that was stackable, protected, and gave customers a clear view of what was inside.
Now the Watsonville-based company is making history again, this time by developing an industry-changing corrugated cardboard container that is simple to recycle and easier on the environment.
The new package category, called ReadyCycle, can now be seen containing cherry tomatoes, figs, strawberries, and other produce items at Monterey Bay-area grocery stores and farmers’ markets, as well as at other retailers and grocers across the United States.
It was a change that the management at Sambrailo felt strongly about from the top down. President and CEO Mark Sambrailo, the third generation of the family to run the company, says the issue of plastics in the environment is something that concerns him personally.
“I’m an outdoorsman and it’s very important to me,” says Sambrailo. “Living near the Monterey Bay, we want clean beaches.” And with important marine facilities such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium here, Sambrailo says he understands how vital the health of the bay is to everyone who lives in this area.
“We recognized the need and wanted to change,” he says.
Single-use plastic items are now known to threaten the health of the planet. More than three-quarters of all plastic—an estimated 14 billion pounds a year—ends up in the world’s oceans, where some of it breaks down into microplastics that are ingested by marine life. As smaller animals are eaten by others, the plastic polymers are passed on and can carry toxins with them to many other animals, including humans.
Mark Sambrailo notes that the rate of plastic recycling is only around 30 percent, while 80 percent of corrugated cardboard is recycled. The ReadyCycle line of products, being made from corrugated cardboard, is much more likely to be recycled than a plastic package, and are also biodegradable.
ReadyCycle containers are 100 percent recyclable, made from simple, all-natural materials, manufactured with food-grade adhesives, printed with vegetable-based inks, and made without wax. Not only are the containers easy to recycle, they’re also made without toxins. In addition, materials used in ReadyCycle containers meet Sustainable Forestry Industry certified sourcing standards, and the containers’ paper content is made up of at least 30 percent post-consumer recycled fiber.
Sambrailo’s ReadyCycle is being hailed as an innovative solution with an enthusiastic response from environmentalists and produce packers alike. It’s being used by numerous organic farmers in the western United States and Mexico, with Durst Organic Growers in northern California as one of the early adopters. Others now using ReadyCycle packaging include Live Earth Farm in Watsonville, JSM Organics in Aromas, Everett Family Farm in Soquel and Dirty Girl Produce in Santa Cruz.
ReadyCycle was selected earlier this year as one of the top 30 seed ideas by the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Anew Mission’s Drastic Plastic Mission to reduce the amount of plastic on supermarket shelves.
Sambrailo has joined the coalition, a worldwide alliance of businesses and individuals seeking to eliminate single-use plastics. ReadyCycle also won best packaging promo at the annual Produce Marketing Association convention. Says Sambrailo: “That was huge.”
And although it costs up to twice as much to make ReadyCycle containers as opposed to plastic clamshells, the positive effect on the environment is worth it. “We’re providing an option for retailers and consumers,” ha adds.
Recognizing a need and meeting it has always been the hallmark of Sambrailo Packaging, which started in 1923 when Charles Sambrailo first saw opportunity to improve produce handling methods. Many Eastern European immigrants settled in Watsonville at the beginning of the 20thcentury and planted apple orchards. Sambrailo approached growers and shippers with packaging solutions, such as paper liners designed to protect apples as they were packed into wooden boxes. Charles passed the leadership of his company to his son Bill, Mark’s father, and Mark took over when his father retired.
Throughout its history, the family-owned company has remained committed to providing customers with innovative and integrated packaging solutions. It now has more than 400 employees in facilities throughout North America, offering integrated packaging and resource management solutions for growers and shippers.
ReadyCycle is not Sambrailo Packaging’s only environmentally responsible product. In fact, all of its plastic packaging uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET, which means that items such as plastic bottles are recycled and made into Sambrailo plastic containers. The company is continuously looking at more sustainable packaging options.
Mark Sambrailo notes that the company is seeking to expand its ReadyCycle line with packaging that can be used in automated packing equipment, fulfilling yet another need for suppliers of items such as blueberries.
Taking care of the environment is Sambrailo Packaging’s way of ensuring that everyone will be able to enjoy this area’s beautiful beaches and bay in the decades to come. The company is also welcoming its fourth generation of the Sambrailo family, with two of Mark Sambrailo’s children, Erik and Kiersten, now working there.
More information is available at www.readycyclepackaging.com.
Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas
tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about sustainable living,
home design and health for numerous publications and websites.