Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Barilla Pasta, the commitment to a sustainable packaging.

As a good Italian girl I had to begin by writing a post on an attractive topic for people who are fond of the Mediterranean diet: pasta, popular in Europe and the world for its nutrients, quality and its versatility to be presented in a thousand ways.

However, those who are fond of pasta know that it is almost impossible to buy in bulk, with the exception of - at least in Italy - fresh and stuffed pasta. In supermarkets, however, it is only packaged in bags made of plastic, usually polypropylene, a material generally recyclable but a synthetic derivative of oil, a fossil resource that will run out.

Fortunately there is still a brand of pasta sold in cartons. That’s Barilla, one of the most famous brands of pasta in Italy and abroad. The cardboard is a renewable and more sustainable material, being fully recyclable, often more easily than plastics.

Barilla, in fact, has always emphasised an environmentally sensitive approach to its production:

"...For Barilla, ecology means investing in total quality and cost reduction, beginning with that of the packaging..."

The company has recently reduced weight and volume of packaging by reducing the use of corrugated cardboard and plastic film and using recyclable paper.

Barilla is constantly improving its manufacturing plants, which are already considered low-impact regarding the environment. The plants have been equipped with sophisticated sewage purification facilities. Heat recovery systems were also installed, recycling heat produced by the steam in the process of drying of pasta.”*

In choosing the material for pasta packaging, the use of heterogeneous materials has been reduced against more homogeneous ones, making it lighter and easier for disposal after use. The plastic ‘window’, was removed from its box design, not only using a single material, but eliminating a working phase for packaging, with the related environmental impacts in terms of less energy, reduced waste of material and no plastic. Elements that were not 'eco-compatible, such as as inks were eliminated too.

The size of the boxes has been reduced, minimizing gaps in packaging. Compared to the old type of box, it has been achieved a 6-8% savings on packaging material, also guaranteeing the optimization of storage units and reducing the number of resources needed for transportation.
In February 2000 this earned Barilla, the 1st prize for the reduction of packaging for distribution, awarded by COMIECO (the National Consortium of Recovery and Recycling of Cellulose-Based Packaging).**

In 2007, even with COMIECO, Barilla has launched a collaboration to promote better recycling of cardboard packaging, so that today it is one of the few brands that exhibits clear recycling symbols on packaging.

In Italy, we welcome the efforts of this great pasta manufacturer, and we hope that further steps towards eco-sustainability can be made, perhaps with the launch of outlets for bulk products and with the supply of organic flour to ensure a product of total goodness, health and minimal environmental impact.

*From a document of University of Pisa, Department of Agricultural Economics of Farm, Forest and Territory)
** Barilla document in Day of the Food Packaging and the Environment - October Cibustech 2005)


  1. Danda,

    Great to see this Italian Zero Waste pasta business. That is lacking in the UK with the standard plastic wrap. I have seen similar for frozen desserts in Aldi. The point is to highlight such good examples for local interest firstly, but also to encourage other countries to follow suit.

    Do they sell the product here in the UK? If so, we can all support the sustainable option.

  2. Hello Danda, lovely to read your post and see you contributing here. Pasta in cardboard - how fantastic; that is the bugbear of many of us UK zero wasters!

    We can buy lasagne sheets in cardboard (although with a flimsy plastic 'window' on the front, but all pasta shapes come in cellophane or plastic bags.

  3. Hi John,
    thank you very much for your comment!

    I'm sure Barilla pasta is sold in France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Slovenjia, Turkey, Austria, Greece, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, North America, South America, Japan and Australia... I didn't see any reference about offices in UK, perhaps they haven't the license to sell there. Sorry!

    I didn't investigate more, but you can ask there at supermarkets and other kind of shops. Even you can create the demand of this product or perhaps make seller more sensible to your needs!

    I wanted to publish this article because I knew that it is of international interest. But if you want, we can ask to the Italian customer service some infos more. Do you think it could be a good idea?

  4. Hi Mrs Green!!!

    Nice to see that you appreciate this post! I knew that pasta packaging was a problem there in UK. Here too, with the excepion of this brand, there aren't any other options. And I'm also very annoyed because I love organic pasta but you can't find any brand that sell it carton boxes!

    So, it is great that the major Italian pasta manifacturer cares about the environmental problem. I wonder why the others - especially that ones involved in preserving organic farming - do not take example from it!

    But there are still some products lines, even in Barilla, - such as lasagne, tagliatelle and so on - that are still sold in cardboard boxes with the filmsy plastic window or at least wrapped in a tin PP bag. I think that they mantain this transparent film for a marketing reason... perhaps they want to show the roughness of the pasta surface, which is the equivalent of a good quality.
    I can ask it to the customer service it too. It could be a good reason to make Barilla know that they must improve with their effort...

  5. Danda,

    I did not appreciate the big international spread of the Barilla pasta which makes it a very good example of Zero Waste. Please accept an apology for my ignorance on the subject.

    Asking at superstores will be a priority since it undermines the "plastic mentality" present therein. It would give enthusiasts another sustainable option.

    Zero Waste is international, with local characteristics, and we should welcome contributions from sources, worldwide

  6. Thanks again, John!
    You don't have to apologize! I have to do it for my partial infos and my not so good English! :)

    I'm very happy to be part of this team, and I really hope that this site will grow more, with the contribution of people from all the world!

  7. Great article! :)

    I didn't know Barilla was available across so many countries worldwide either!! :)

    Well, I was told (on a slovenian forum) that Barilla pasta in cardboard is available in Slovenia too! must look in the supermarkets!

    Do you know if there is a wholewheat option? (we buy wholewheat pasta) or organic indeed?

    Or maybe we can write to Barilla & supermarkets here that we want wholewheat/organic option?! :)

  8. Thanks so much, Layla!

    Yes, wholewheat pasta is now avaiable too, but there's not a commercial line for the organic one.

    Wholewheat pasta is packaged in cardboard boxes, but unfortunately there's the little filmsy plastic window, that is easy to remove. I found in the guide for local waste collection, that the service tolerates a little percentage of plastic foil in recycling paper and cardboard, perhaps they discard it during the recycling process, even if it is waste the same!
    But this is what happens locally... I don't know if that plastic percentage is accepted everywhere!

    I think that we have to take the advantage of the chances to make our request to the manufacturers or superstores, because, as John said, we would create a new sustainable mentality!

  9. Danda,

    I would remove the plastic window and deal with it as waste. We should encourage people to provide good recyclate, partly to avoid material rejected, and landfilled. A percentage of mixed plastic recycling is waste-bound which is a shame. The figure is ~5%.

    What is the Italian situation with this issue?

  10. I totally agree with you, John.

    I have no idea about the exact percentage of material which is rejected here in Italy, in the recycling process. What I surely know is that it depends from local recycling facilities. Every province has its rules and different recycling systems. More are the bins for recycling, better is the quality of materials.

    Here in my province, we have five different kinds of bin: organic (wet) waste, glass, paper and cardboard, non-recyclable waste and what they call 'light packaging'. Last one includes different kind of plastic, aluminium, steel and general metal waste. It's clear that in a mixed waste collection like this, quality is not guarateed, and surely the percentage of rejected material will be high.

    So only good information can help people to separate and clean materials before throwing them in the recycling bins. And I think we can work together even for this!

  11. Great Article Danda. Pasta is a frustration regards to plastic packaging. Guess what, since reading your post and the comments here, I've found an online retailer of Barilla products so if those interested can't find the brand in the supermarkets, you can at least try online at I can't vouch for the packaging they use for deliveries, but at least it's a start.

  12. Yay! It's a great news, Karen!
    I hope that the delivering package is ok for Zero Waste! But, as you said, it's a start!
    I can also check there the other products they sell in order to tell you if there's anything interesting more under the Zero Waste profile! Thank you very much!

    I tried to contact also the Barilla customer service to tell them of this discussion... hoping that they could come here to answer to most of the doubts and queries that emerged.

  13. Great Article and very true, Barilla are the only people with cardboard packaging. Its handy that Barilla tastes great and is not just popular in Italy, its the biggest in italy. I followed your advise on here and ordered off and recieved my order. The packaging was made using a second hand box with a note inside stating they re-use all boxes to save packaging as they are an eco friendly company. I had another order off them and it was a corporate box that can be 100% recycled. recommended.

  14. Thank you very much, Tom, for your direct experience.
    Good to know that the packaging was a second hand box or a full recyclable one.
    I hope that price was convenient too...
    What a pity that other pasta manifacturers don't care too much about packaging, avoiding to use plastics! So, I'm happy for having suggested a valid alternative!

  15. It's very nice when I can find a blog or link that It is about pasta because It is my favorite food since I went to Italy and eat It in a restaurant in Milan. So very interesting the blog congratulations.

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