How Does Food Packaging Impact the Environment?

How Does Food Packaging Impact the Environment?

Every day, we use food packaging. Every single item we eat comes in its own packaging. However, overuse and wasteful packing have grown to be major issues. What effects does food packing have on the environment, then? What can we do as consumers and food businesses? Explore in our blog today.

Overview of food packaging

Because food packaging is so widely used, it plays a significant role in daily life. An overview of this product type is provided below.

Why sustainable packging is important?

Food Packaging Uses

Food packaging fulfills several vital functions, such as:

  • Protection: Food packaging shields food from dings, scratches, and other physical harm. Additionally, it protects food from dust, other pollutants, and germs.
  • Preservation: By keeping food from spoiling and maintaining its freshness, food packaging can help foods last longer on the shelf. This is accomplished by managing variables including temperature, humidity, and oxygen levels in addition to utilizing materials that provide a barrier between the food and its surroundings.
  • Convenience: Food packaging facilitates food storage, transportation, and usage. Additionally, it can offer details about the item, like its ingredients, nutritional value, and preparation guidelines.
  • Marketing: Food packaging can be used to make food products more appealing to consumers. This is often done through the use of attractive designs, colorful graphics, and informative labels.
  • Marketing: Using attractive food packaging, food products can attract more customers. Frequently, eye-catching patterns, vibrant images, and educational labels are used to achieve this.

Type of food packaging and their materials

Here is a table to summarize different types of food packaging and their materials:

Type of food packaging

Materials

Description

Cans

Steel, aluminum

Durable, stackable, and can protect food from spoilage for long periods of time.

Cartons

Paperboard, corrugated cardboard

Lightweight, easy to print on, and can be recycled.

Glass jars

Glass

Inert, meaning that they will not react with the food they contain.

Flexible packaging

Plastic, foil, paper

Lightweight, inexpensive, and can be easily formed into a variety of shapes.

Bags

Plastic, paper, foil

Lightweight, inexpensive, and can be easily sealed.

Boxes

Paperboard, corrugated cardboard

Strong, durable, and can be easily printed on.

Wraps

Plastic, foil, paper

Lightweight, inexpensive, and can be easily sealed.

Pallets

Wood, plastic

Strong, durable, and can be easily stacked.

Trays

Plastic, paperboard, foam

Lightweight, inexpensive, and can be easily stacked.

How food packaging affects to environment

Food packaging presents a serious environmental risk at every stage of its life cycle, from manufacturing to use and post-use.

Manufacturing Stage

In order to make food packaging materials, raw resources including minerals for metals, oil for plastics, and trees for paper pulp must be extracted and processed. This procedure allows:

  • Resource Depletion: The exploitation of natural resources, such as trees for paper pulp, oil for plastics, and minerals for metals, is required in the creation of food packaging materials. This contributes to habitat loss, deforestation, and a decrease in biodiversity in addition to diminishing natural resources.
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Energy-intensive manufacturing processes that produce food packaging materials release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, increasing climate change. Industries that require a lot of energy are those that produce pulp and paper, plastic extrusion, and metal processing.
  • Water Pollution: The extraction and processing of raw materials for food packaging might need a large amount of water, resulting in water scarcity and pollution. This is especially true for the production of paper and pulp, where the breakdown of wood fibers calls for a lot of water.

Use Stage

Maintaining product quality and avoiding spoiling are the main concerns when using food packaging. However, food packaging can cause:

  • Microplastic Pollution: Plastic packaging degrades into microscopic particles known as microplastics, which pollute streams, oceans, and even the atmosphere. Marine creatures that consume microplastics may experience digestive system disruptions and even end up in the human food chain.
  • Chemical Contamination: Certain food packing materials may contain chemicals that might move into food, creating serious health hazards. Ecosystems could be contaminated by these substances leaking into the environment.

Post-Use Stage

Food packaging turns into waste when it is used. The enormous quantity of garbage generated by food packaging is very harmful to the environment:

  • Landfill Overload: Waste from food packaging ends up in landfills, where it slowly breaks down and releases a powerful greenhouse gas called methane.
  • Microplastic Pollution: Food packaging-related microplastics are still contaminating the environment, endangering marine life and possibly making their way into human food chains.
  • Depletion of Resources: Food packaging disposal, whether by landfilling or incineration, can worsen environmental degradation and further deplete natural resources.

Pollutions by food packaging waste

Water Pollution

Various types of water pollution are caused by discarded food packaging that ends up in rivers, especially plastic bags and containers.

  • Microplastic Pollution: When plastic packaging degrades, microscopic pieces known as microplastics are released into the environment, contaminating rivers, seas, and even places that supply drinking water. Marine creatures that consume microplastics may experience digestive system disruptions and even end up in the human food chain.
  • Chemical Contamination: Certain food packing materials include chemicals that might seep into water sources, damaging aquatic ecosystems and causing possible health concerns to humans. These substances have the potential to cause cancer, damage reproductive systems, and upset ecosystems.
  • Habitat Degradation: Food packaging waste accumulates in rivers, destroying aquatic habitats and threatening aquatic life's existence. Fish gills can become clogged with plastic material, which may also interfere with feeding and breeding cycles.

Land Pollution:

Food packaging that is thrown away pollutes the earth and causes a number of environmental issues.

  • Litter: Waste from food packaging, especially plastic bags and containers, adds to the problem by making landscapes less beautiful and harming wildlife.
  • Microplastic pollution: food packaging microplastics can pollute soil and ecosystems, impacting land animals and possibly making their way into the human food chain through contaminated produce.
  • Landfill trash: A large amount of trash related to food packaging ends up in landfills, where it slowly breaks down and releases methane, one of the main greenhouse gases that causes climate change. Additionally, landfill garbage can poison groundwater and takes up precious property.

Air Pollution:

Throughout its lifecycle, food packaging adds to air pollution:

  • Manufacturing Emissions: The production of food packaging materials, such as pulp and paper production, plastic extrusion, and metal processing, is energy-intensive, generating greenhouse gases and air pollutants such as particulate matter and volatile organic compounds.
  • Transportation Emissions: Transporting food packaging materials from manufacturing sites to distribution hubs and retail locations contributes to air pollution by burning fossil fuels in trucks, trains, and ships.
  • Waste Incineration: When food packaging waste is burned, dangerous pollutants such as particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants are released into the atmosphere.

Impact of Food Packaging on Wildlife

Wildlife is negatively impacted by food packaging waste-related air, land, and water pollution:

  • Ingestion: When animals, especially birds and marine life, mistake plastic trash and microplastics for food, their digestive tracts may get clogged, reducing their ability to absorb nutrients and perhaps resulting in death.
  • Entanglement: Birds and marine mammals can become entangled in plastic packaging materials like fishing nets and bags, which can lead to injuries, decreased movement, and even death. Entanglement can cause suffocation or drowning, limit movement, and make feeding difficult.

What we can do to reduce environmental impacts of food packaging?

Reducing the impact of food packaging on the environment requires a collective effort from both consumers and foodservice businesses.

As a customer, you should: 

  • Select minimally packaged goods: Go for loose fruits and vegetables rather than ones that have already been wrapped, and search for goods that have recyclable or little packaging.
  • Bring reusable containers and bags: When you go shopping, use your own reusable containers to store leftover food and groceries.
  • Steer clear of individually wrapped goods: Whenever possible, go for options that are unpackaged or in larger packages.
  • Encourage environmentally friendly packaging projects by shopping at businesses that use compostable or recycled packaging, among other environmentally friendly packaging techniques.

As foodservice Bussiness can:

  • Reduce packaging use: Optimize packaging design to reduce the quantity of material used, and explore adopting lighter-weight materials.
  • Encourage reusable packaging: Provide reusable containers or utensils for dine-in customers and encourage customers to bring their reusable containers for takeout or delivery.
  • Use sustainable materials: When available, use packaging made from recycled materials, compostable materials, or plant-based alternatives.
  • Implement effective recycling programs: Collaborate with local recycling facilities to ensure food packaging trash is properly sorted, collected, and recycled.
  • Educate customers: Inform them about your sustainable packaging activities and encourage them to make environmentally friendly choices.
  • Support sustainable packaging suppliers: Work with suppliers that are committed to sustainable packaging techniques and responsible sourcing of materials.

As a wholesale provider of eco-packaging in North America, Kimecopak helps your food business with a range of eco-packaging including paper coffee cups, paper to-go-box, biodegradable straws, biodegradable beer rings, etc. We offers also different exclusive offers including fixed-price for 6 months, discount 5-7%, storage solution and scheduled shipping. Please contact the Kimecopak Facebook Fanpage or halo@kimecopak.ca for more information.

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