Reducing CO2 emissions during industrial processes and the life cycle of products is a challenge and opportunity that became a national competition promoted and financed by the Ministry of Environment, which awarded the Coopbox Group's Carbon Footprint project.

Coopbox Group, an enterprise belonging to the CCPL Group and a leading concern in Italy and Europe when it comes to food packaging and packaging systems for fresh foods, has always been attentive and aware of the environmental impact of the raw materials used and its industrial cycle. Thus, the Carbon Footprint project for determining and reducing, or neutralizing, greenhouse gas emissions during the life cycle of the products obtained funding from the Ministry of Environment. The project is divided into four major steps, the first dedicated to analysing the carbon footprint of certain selected products, i.e. expanded polystyrene (XPS), expanded polylactic acid (XPLA) and expanded polyethylene terephthalate (XPET), from production of the raw materials through to their disposal. The data will be collected and analysed using software purpose-made to calculate the Coopbox Carbon Footprint. Possible measures for reducing and neutralizing the emissions will be determined during the second and third phases of the project, while the fourth phase will be dedicated to finely tuning communication strategies designed to provide consumers with quantitative data about the improvement actions in an eco-evaluation label (already in the process of deliberation by the EU) and through any other suitable channel.

The Carbon Footprint project funded by the Ministry fits very well with the environmental sustainability policies pursued by Coopbox, which has always invested a lot in research and development in an endeavour to discover solutions with the least possible impact on the environment. Production of trays that are lighter in weight and research into materials with less impact on the environment are the foundations on which Coopbox's innovation plans are based. So much so, 70% of the products are made with expanded materials (XPS, XPET, XC-PET, XPLA) containing 98% of air. This means that, thanks to this technology, over 10,000 tones of plastic are saved each year, corresponding to approximately 30,000 tons of CO2.

When it comes to research into materials, Coopbox was the first company in Europe to expand PLA, a fully compostable and biodegradable bioplastic made from corn starch, from which the award-winning Naturalbox is created. Besides leading to the production of food trays in R-PET, the decision to use recycled materials is also implemented via an energy efficiency project in the Madrid facility where only energy from renewable sources is purchased.


The Packaging Oscar was awarded to the Coopbox Group during the event organized by the Italian Packaging Institute, in which major competitors from the various segments of the industrial packaging market take part.

The product that obtained this important acknowledgement was AerBag, a modified atmosphere packaging system for fresh foods comprising an expanded polystyrene base and a protective conditioning enclosure. A technology that safeguards the microbiological quality of the foods while being practical to use for the consumer.

Careful analysis of consumer needs and habits was the starting point on which the AerBag research project was based. The resulting product features a complex combination of materials and can preserve easily perishable products in the best possible way while guaranteeing flexibility as to the way the foods are refrigerated (AerBag takes up less space in the fridge or freezer).

AerBag was awarded on 17 April 2008 as best product in the "Quality Design" category of the special "Solid Food Products" section, during a ceremony held in Campus Bovisa at Politecnico di Milano.

The 2008 Oscar adds to other important awards obtained during the last few years thanks to the research work conducted by Coopbox Europe. The acknowledgements received for the production of fully biodegradable food trays made of natural materials like maize, are of particular importance. Thanks to these characteristics, the Naturalbox tray (this is the brand name of the biodegradable tray) received the 2005 Packaging Oscar for the “Environment-Think about the Future” section, while in 2006, it won the “Meat Industry Award” in London and the “Bioplastic Award” in Frankfurt.


After having won the Oscar Award in 2005, the new biodegradable Naturalbox tray obtained the international 'Meat Industry Award' in the 'Best packaging for a product' category.


The first fully biodegradable expanded PLA packaging was created by Coopbox, which won the 2005 Packaging Oscar for its Naturalbox tray.

This product is made of expanded PLA, a material obtained from renewable sources. The feedstock is maize (potentially replaceable with other grain crops possessing the same characteristics), from which lactic acid is obtained by means of a fermentation process. Lactide, the monomer, comes from lactic acid, i.e. the basic element for forming the polymer chain that characterizes the molecular structure of PLA. The material has a so-called expanded structure, thus porous, thanks to an extrusion process during which a mixture of natural gases (including nitrogen and carbon dioxide) is injected. This feature of PLA is the real innovation. The characteristic porosity of the expanded structure is able to achieve packaging that weighs less with consequent savings on the amount of material used (less than half), and allows controlled absorption of the liquids released by the foodstuffs, thus drainage.

Expanded PLA also possesses other basic packaging characteristics:
  • machinability and mechanical protection: features that provide the ability to withstand processing, and protection against impact during transport thanks to a molecular structure similar to that of expanded polystyrene;
  • shelf life: the packaging is able to preserve products for up to 12 days;
  • thermal insulation: the ability to withstand low temperatures in freezers.

Last, but most important, this material is totally biodegradable. It is able to convert into fully natural final products like carbon dioxide, water and fertilizer residues, thus compost, in only 47 days.