Can paper potato bags be recycled

COVID-19 emphasizes the need for quality and traceability in fresh potato packaging

Quality and traceability, two important requirements for the packaging of fresh potatoes, are threatened by market disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have increased home cooking and the popularity of fresh potatoes. Packers may have been tempted to keep pace with demand by sending larger quantities of potatoes on the line or setting lines for higher speeds - but this makes quality control difficult.

Product quality is sacrosanct to ensure food safety for consumers, protect manufacturers 'reputations, and satisfy packers' customers. In addition, product quality can also affect profitability, sometimes as can packaging rates, product recovery efficiency, and market-driven supply and demand.

Food safety first. Risks always lie in a load of freshly picked potatoes, which too often contain foreign substances such as field mice, plastic bottles, stones, wood, sticks, stalks and grapevines. These must be recognized and removed by the grower's and / or packer's presorters before the product is fed into the packaging line, and by sorters on the line itself. Sounds straightforward, but some lines still depend on workers removing incomplete potatoes even though it does, machines can see things that humans cannot. Some machines are better than others at removing both debris and potato faults.

While safety is a binary judgment - the product is either safe or not - quality ratings are assessed. Potatoes reaching the end of the line must meet well-defined specifications for appearance and dimensions, but these specifications may vary. Only the most advanced optical sorting technology can make the necessary distinctions and move from one product setting to another with minimal downtime.

And profitability? A good quality product can be the key to higher quality markets, but there is also money that can be unlocked when otherwise unsaleable potatoes are made available in lower qualities. This in turn requires sophisticated sorting technologies. Sorters not only recognize and reject products of unacceptable quality or specification, but can also enable the recovery of a relevant portion of that rejected product for sale at a lower quality (e.g. Class II potatoes from what was originally on the farm the line was rejected) for class I).

Traceability This is an increasingly important part of food safety and improving the marketability of products. Should an incomplete product in any way reach retail stores or consumers, traceability can quickly confirm its origin and distribution points, allowing immediate removal from points of sale. Fortunately, the need for such action is extremely rare, but traceability has other benefits that continue to be of value.

For consumers, traceability can help provide the information they increasingly want to see about the origin of the food. Market researchers have found that the majority of shoppers are willing to pay more for food with information transparency. For Packer, traceability is an integral part of technologies that also improve efficiency and profitability, and part of the digital transformation that is affecting all industries. Adapting existing business practices to new digital methods - through automation, interconnectivity, machine learning, and real-time data - can provide actionable data that has tremendous potential value. Offered as part of the latest state-of-the-art sorting technologies, these capabilities enable the application of data to improve operational efficiencies, create new opportunities for value creation, and unlock new revenue streams.

If this sounds like the future, the future arrives now. And that arrival was hastened by the added pressure put on packers by the upheaval caused by COVID-19.

TOMRA Food develops and manufactures sensor-based sorting machines and integrated post-harvest solutions for the food industry using the world's most advanced sorting, sorting, peeling and analysis technology. Over 8,000 units are being installed at food growers, packagers and processors around the world for fruits, nuts, vegetables, potato products, grains and seeds, dried fruits, meat and seafood. The company's mission is to enable its customers to improve ROI, achieve operational efficiencies, and ensure safe food supplies through smart, usable technologies. To achieve this, TOMRA Food operates competence centers, regional offices and production sites in the USA, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

TOMRA Food is a member of the TOMRA Group, which was founded in 1972 on the basis of innovation and began with the development, manufacture and sale of reverse vending machines (RVMs) for the automated collection of used beverage containers. Today, TOMRA offers technology-oriented solutions that enable circular economy with advanced collection and sorting systems that optimize resource recovery and minimize waste in the food, recycling and mining industries.

TOMRA has ~ 100,000 installations in over 80 markets worldwide and achieved 9.3 total sales of ~ 2019 billion NOK. The group employs ~ 4,500 people worldwide and is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE: TOM).

More information about TOMRA can be found at