When it comes to sustainability and food safety, plastic doesn’t have the best reputation. It may surprise you to learn that plastic bakery trays are a very eco-friendly and food-safe way to store and transport baked goods.
What are Plastic Bakery Trays in the Food Industry Used For?
Plastic has nearly endless uses in the food industry, but plastic bakery trays are mainly used for storing, organizing, and transporting baked goods. Depending on their use, they can be shaped like a flat tray, a tray with edges, a shallow basket, or a larger basket.
How Are Bakery Trays Different From Baking Trays?
Baking trays, also called cookie sheets or sheet pans, are metal trays used for baking bread, pastries, and other items. Bakery trays come into play later in the process to store, sort, and transport the baked goods. These trays are usually made of plastic to keep them lightweight and easy to move around.
Why Plastic Is More Sustainable
Reducing plastic usage receives a lot of attention as a sustainability solution. It’s important for businesses to pay attention to sustainability—60% of people in a McKinsey survey said they’d be willing to pay a higher price for a product with sustainable packaging. Most customers see paper packaging as the most sustainable option. However, most of the concerns about using plastic only apply to single-use plastics like soda bottles and disposable food wrappers. Reusable items like plastic bakery trays are actually the most sustainable option in many cases.
Plastic uses four times less energy to manufacture than paper. When it comes to sorting and transporting bakery items, plastic trays are sturdy enough to last for years, while cardboard alternatives won’t last more than a few uses. Opting for high-quality plastic bakery trays will produce less waste, ultimately making them more eco-friendly. Compared to other reusable options like metal, plastic trays are much lighter in weight. This means they’ll use less energy when they’re being shipped from one location to another.
Reusable plastics can also be recycled when they do reach the end of their lifespans. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is a common material used in bakery trays, and it’s also one of the easiest types of plastics to recycle.
Use of Plastics in Direct Contact With Food
Many people have concerns about potentially harmful chemicals passing from plastic packaging and storage containers into food items. Fortunately, many different types of plastic are out there, and many are safe to store food in directly. Businesses should start by considering the important distinction between food-grade and food-safe products.
Food-grade plastics are products the FDA has determined to be safe for being in direct contact with food. These can include bakery trays, cutting boards, packaging, and dishes.
Food-grade items aren’t necessarily safe to use in every situation. For food-grade plastic to also be considered food-safe, the products must be used correctly. For example, some plastic containers are safe to store cold foods in but become unsafe when heated. Heating up these types of containers wouldn’t be food-safe, even if the container itself is labeled food-grade.
If plastic bakery trays are going to be used to hold warm or hot items straight out of the oven, it’s important to ensure the tray is food safe for hot foods. Any food-grade bakery tray should be safe to use with cold products. In general, plastics marked with recycling numbers 2, 4, and 5 are the safest for food storage. These numbers represent HDPE, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polypropylene (PP). HDPE is the most common material for plastic bakery trays, though PP trays may also be available. HDPE is easier to recycle, but PP is safe to heat, so it can be the better choice in some situations. LDPE is used for softer packing like plastic bags, so would not be used in bakery trays. If sustainability is a priority, HDPE is considered the most sustainable option.
Improve Both Sustainability and Safety With Flexcon Plastic Bakery Trays
Flexcon offers a wide selection of plastic bakery trays in different shapes and sizes to fit any company’s needs. This includes nesting, stackable options, and corresponding dolly attachments for easy transportation. Compact storage and ergonomic features make them easy and comfortable to use. All our bakery trays are reusable, recyclable, and sturdy enough to withstand manual and automatic systems. We offer custom colors and hot stamping to display your brand colors and logo, keep track of logistical concerns, or both.