CHICAGO — The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), and the American Meat Institute (AMI) have begun conducting a survey about meat packaging in an effort to identify ways to increase the packaging recovery rate. The study will examine how packaging materials can be optimized, reused and recovered.

During a press luncheon at Pack Expo on Nov. 1, Fred Hayes, director of technical services for PMMI, said the scope of the joint project will focus on packaging used within the processing plants and distribution — not retail.

“Last year the International Standards Organization [ISO] began a work item under technical committee 122 packaging, which will create ISO standards similar to EN standards that support the European Union packaging and packaging-waste directive,” Hayes said. “This joint AMI/PMMI project will consider the key principles of the ISO standards.”

However, the study is not a standards development effort, he added; instead, it will consider areas identified by the ISO as key principles, which include optimization, reuse and recovery.

During first quarter of 2011, study efforts will identify issues needing to be addressed. Hayes expects the document to be completed by the third quarter of 2011 while the results are expected to be released by the fourth quarter.

“This is the first time major industry associations have come together to survey the meat industry supply chain about various types of packing,” said Charles Yuska, PMMI president & CEO. “Our goal is to provide paths forward that will eventually lead to an increase in the recovery rate for meat industry packaging.”

Through the effort, packaging issues will be prioritized based on practicality and their potential for positive impact on the environment. “This effort is part of AMI’s ongoing sustainability initiative,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president. “We are seeking ways to optimize packaging to reduce its impact on the environment. The survey’s findings will help identify options for increasing packaging recovery rates while continuing to provide high quality meat and poultry products packaged in ways that satisfy our customers.”

This initiative marks the first major undertaking by AMI and PMMI since June, when they first announced their strategic partnership.