3 Types of Sustainable Food Packaging (and 3 to Avoid)

September 23, 2022

Plastics are continuously accumulating in the oceans and landfills.

Micro- and nano-plastics contaminate the environment and expose humans to serious health hazards.

Due to the negative impact of non-biodegradable plastic packaging on humanity and the environment, more people are pushing to substantially reduce plastic production, uphold recycling, and promote more sustainable and eco-friendly food packaging.

Sustainable packaging entails the production and use of packaging that enhances sustainability while preserving natural resources.

This article describes the types of sustainable food packaging we can use, the ones that should be avoided, and ways to reduce the use of plastic in our daily lives.

Types of Sustainable Food Packaging

Glass

Glass containers are reusable, recyclable, and durable. However, glass lids do not seal well, so they are not ideal portable containers for trips, work, or school. This means that most portable glass food containers have plastic lids that snap together.

Ensure that the lids you buy do not have bisphenol-A (BPA) as it is known to cause male and female infertility and the growth of tumours.

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of using glass as food packaging.

Advantages

  • Recyclable

  • Can be repurposed and reused

  • Excellent barrier qualities that are good for shelf-life

  • Suitable for long-lasting products

  • Transparent and clear, allowing consumers to see the product inside the container

Disadvantages

  • Does not biodegrade easily

  • Needs a considerable amount of energy to produce and recycle

  • Cannot be made wholly from recycled glass

  • Once broken, debris may mix with food, making it unsafe to consume

  • Uneconomical compared to the plastic alternatives

  • Bulky and heavy to transport, which increases fuel consumption and costs

Stainless steel

Food-grade stainless steel containers are reusable and recyclable. They are also durable, rust-free, and heat-resistant.

Below are the advantages and disadvantages of using food-grade stainless steel containers.

Advantages

  • Recyclable

  • Excellent barrier qualities that are beneficial for shelf-life

  • Excellent for long-lasting products

Disadvantages

  • Does not biodegrade easily

  • Extremely energy-intensive to manufacture and recycle

  • Cost more than the plastic alternative

  •  Susceptible to corrosion

Compostable food packaging

Compostable food packaging is disposable and decomposes into its natural components. Once composted, it cannot cause damage to the environment. However, compostable packaging does not have the same barrier qualities as other packaging materials. In addition, certain compostable materials can only be composted using industrial procedures that are not readily accessible.

Advantages

  • Recyclable

  • Compostable

  • Non-degradable to microplastics

Disadvantages

  • Comparative unideal barrier characteristics resulting in a shorter shelf-life

  • Easily damaged or torn compared to other materials

Types of Food Packaging to Avoid

Petroleum-based plastics are not biodegradable. Instead, they disintegrate into nano-plastic particles that pollute the environment and endanger natural ecosystems and human well-being.

Although petroleum-based plastics contain additives that facilitate food storage and transportation, these chemicals contribute to pollution and increase the risk of hormonal disorders and cancer in people.

Here are the three petroleum-based polymers that you should avoid:

  • Plastic with Bisphenol-A. BPA is an ingredient used in producing polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It has a strong tendency to leach through the food from the packaging, which may increase the risk for infertility, hormonal imbalance, and metabolic abnormalities when ingested.

  • Disposable plastics and takeout containers. These include single-use plastics, such as straws, beverage bottles, styrofoam cups, and containers. They also largely contribute to the build-up of plastic garbage in the oceans and the existing waste management problem, hence continuously contaminating and damaging the environment.

  • Styrofoam. Styrofoams are made of plastic foam or expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). Consumers frequently use this material to make food containers and beverage cups. Because styrofoam does not decompose quickly, it’s one of the worst food packaging for the environment.

Practical Tips on How to Cut Down on Plastic Usage

  • Opt for reusable metal or bamboo straws instead of single-use plastic ones. You can also use compostable, eco-friendly paper straws as an alternative.

  • Use faucet filters or pitchers with filters for your water at home. This will reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles.

  • Recycle the right plastic food packages such as Tupperware and ziplock bags.

  • Opt for reusable and BPA-free water bottles.

  • Skip using plastic utensils whenever you order takeout.

  • Replace your plastic food containers with glass or compostable plastics.

The accumulation of plastic food packaging in the environment is a prevalent issue that has consistently caused hazards not just to humanity but also to other living creatures. Although it may seem impossible to eliminate plastic, selecting eco-friendly food packaging that is compostable, less toxic, and recyclable is a significant step towards reducing the negative impact of plastics on health and the environment.

If your company has been considering shifting to a more sustainable and eco-friendly packaging, visit our website to learn more about how our product line can partner with you.

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