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The Impact of Eco-Friendly Packaging: Reducing Waste and Plastic Pollution

Posted on 1/4/2024

in Food Packaging

by Steven Baker

Flat lay composition with eco-friendly tableware on brown paper background. Bamboo plates, paper cups and wooden cutlery.

Plastics are a product of human innovation that is lightweight, durable, decay-resistant, inexpensive, and moldable. Unfortunately, this innovation comes at a price. Modern food packaging provides a way to make food safe, reliable, shelf-stable, and clean.

Unfortunately, most food packaging is designed to be single-use and is not recycled. Plastic packaging is extremely wasteful and impacts the earth’s ecosystems, on which we depend. The predominant means by which plastic refuse is disposed of is in landfills or into the environment, owing to inadequate product design and a dearth of political infrastructure.

Out of the total production of 9.2 billion kilograms of plastic, a mere 9 percent has undergone appropriate recycling processes.

Since plastic does not break down naturally, there is an infinite supply of it floating about the Earth. All plastic, whether it decomposes into microplastics or not, ends up in the stomachs of marine creatures the moment it hits the water.

The UN has declared a "planetary crisis" due to the plastic pollution of the seas. This is a problem for all aquatic life, not just humanity. Food packaging has additional detrimental effects on the environment, including the air and soil.

So, to curb those, sustainable and eco-friendly packaging is becoming quite popular. Let’s talk about its impact on reducing pollution and waste.


The Ubiquity of Packaged Food | From Grocery Stores to Farmers' Markets:

Almost all food that we buy, especially processed food, comes packaged. Whether it comes from a grocery store or market, a sit-down or fast-food restaurant, an online meal delivery service or perhaps even the farmers’ market, it is hard to find food that isn’t artificially encased.

A wide range of synthetic and manufactured materials are used to construct modern food packaging. These include ceramics, glass, metal, paper, cardboard, wax, wood, paperboard, plastic, and an increasing amount of plastic. Paper, paperboard, hard plastic, and glass make up the vast majority of food packaging. But today, things are changing quickly. Eco-friendly packaging is becoming quite mainstream, and you can look for that when buying groceries or food items.

Businesses that practice sustainability can get eco-friendly logos designed to attract customers looking to make better choices.


Navigating the Environmental Impact of Plastics | Origins, Challenges, and Sustainable Solutions:

A small percentage of modern plastics are derived from plants, such as maize, although the majority are petroleum-based with polymer additions. In addition, many types of packaging contain coatings, and most packaging comes labeled with text using printer’s inks; paperboard is often lined with plastic that is not visible. Landfill space is limited.

As of now, 91 percent of packaging waste is sent to landfills and/or to the environment. Reducing single-use plastics and increasing the usage of biodegradable materials would lighten the load for waste-management systems around the world and increase efficiency for the necessary waste needed for processing.

Crude oil, natural gas, and coal are some of the natural resources used to make plastics. Deforestation, hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas leaks, and other environmental disasters are long-term consequences of depleting natural resources to meet the material demands of a rapidly expanding human population.

Earth and its ecosystems, upon which human survival depends, would be preserved if we reduced our use of plastic packaging, which would naturally lower demand for these materials.

Energy consumption is inherently lower when new materials are made from old ones rather than raw materials themselves.

The EPA reports that recycling only one pound of polyethylene—the material most often used to make plastic water bottles—can save as much as twelve thousand British thermal units (BTUs) of heat energy.

Reduced demand on the conventional power grid, which is mostly dependent on the combustion of fossil fuels, is a direct result of recycling operations, which may save as much as 63% in comparison to conventional production.


Global Consequences: Plastic Packaging, Waste Mismanagement, and Environmental Threats:

Most plastic packaging that goes to landfills winds up in our natural settings because of inadequate waste management systems globally.

The annual amount of plastic trash poured into the ocean is 8 million tons. Poisoning ecosystems, endangering species, and endangering human health are all consequences of plastic pollution.

The likelihood of such harm decreasing would be achieved by reducing the manufacturing of plastic packaging.

In addition, landfills eventually burn plastic trash to create a way for more garbage. When plastic is burned, it releases harmful chemicals and allergens into the air. Improving global air quality is as simple as sending less plastic trash to landfills.

Breaking Free from Single-Use Plastics with Reusable Alternatives:

Things like plastic wrap, straws, throwaway cutlery, supermarket bags, and coffee cup lids account for 90% of the plastic we use every day.

You should replace these goods with reusable ones after keeping track of how frequently you depend on them.

It only takes a few times of bringing your bags to the store, silverware to the office, or a travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes a habit.

Maximizing Plastic's Potential: Responsible Reuse and Sustainable Practices:

Despite its many benefits, such as resistance, plastic may lead to pollution if not handled properly. Thus, many plastic things may be repurposed or put to other uses. Before throwing plastic items, it is important to consider how they can be reused.

Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Make sure you never end up using a Poland Spring or Evian again by always keeping a reusable bottle on hand. To alleviate concerns about the purity of your municipal water supply, seek a device that includes a filter.

Embracing Sustainable Practices: Home-Cooked Meals, Minimal Takeout, and Secondhand Finds

In addition to being better for you, cooking at home eliminates the need for plastic containers and doggie bags for takeout.

Let the restaurant know you don't want any plastic utensils, whether you order takeout or dine-in, and for major bonus points, bring your containers to store your leftovers in.

Those annoying, hard-to-crack shells and tangled ties are just two examples of the many forms of plastic packaging that new toys and electronics often arrive in.

Try looking through the racks at secondhand shops, local garage sales, or internet classifieds for things that were previously used but are still in excellent condition. The cherry on top, you'll end up saving some money.

Eco-Friendly Wardrobe: Sustainable Dry Cleaning and Consumer Advocacy:

Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned to it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re using a dry cleaner that skips perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)

While each of us may have a little impact via our daily actions, it's clear that companies' impact is much greater. Get your opinion known if you think a firm might use more intelligent packaging. Take it to the next level by sending a tweet, writing a letter, or even just giving your money to a more environmentally friendly rival.

Conclusion:


A change in thinking towards more sustainable operations and environmentally friendly packaging is essential to fight plastic waste. A concerted effort to decrease waste, embrace reusable alternatives, and advocate for responsible material usage is necessary due to the pervasiveness of plastic in our everyday lives.

Reducing the far-reaching environmental impacts of plastic packaging is possible by promoting a worldwide dedication to environmentally responsible choices; this will lead to a better, more sustainable future.

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