It’s easy to blame something such as plastic for being a main contributor to the world’s environmental issues, as it doesn’t have the squeakiest of clean reputations. However, with everyone hopping onto the sustainability train lately, it’s getting more pressure than ever. Highlighting these three main misconceptions of plastic packaging will hopefully open a few eyes to the wonderful world of plastic!
- The lighter weight the packaging, the better
Britons use less packaging per person than many other EU countries according to INCPEN – the Industry Council for Research on Packaging and the Environment. Despite this, the European Commission stated that the U.K was said to be the worst food waste offender in August this year. See a connection? We need packaging to protect our products, to avoid them from ending up as waste and filling landfill. In the UK, 60% of packaging is recycled. Take a guess at how much food is avoidably wasted … 80%!
This being said, the industry is constantly coming up with new lighter weight packaging solutions that do provide full functionality, equivalent to those heavier packaging solutions. According to INCPEN a one litre washing up liquid bottle uses 64% less material than in 1970s.
- Plastics are worse for the environment than the products they pack
It is thought that packaging and especially plastics are very damaging to our environment and are one of the main problems that we have to face. But I can assure you that this is not even close to truth; check out these findings:
A survey by Denkstatt found that packaged fresh goods have a smaller environmental footprint than unpackaged goods (even if the packaging is not recycled).
According to the aforementioned INCPEN, if you turn down your heating by just 2 degrees in the Winter, you can save the same amount of energy used for the packaging of a household’s yearly supply of goods. INCPEN went on to say: “10 times more resources, such as materials, energy and water, are used to make and distribute food, than are used to make the packaging to protect it”.
Plastics Europe, another industry lobby group, states that greenhouse gas emissions would almost triple if food was packed using materials other than plastics and the related energy consumption would double.
- Plastics that touch our food are bad for consumers’ health
It is true that chemicals are used to manufacture packaging. However, just because chemicals are used in the manufacturing process does not mean that they are then transferred into our food. The European Commission in-house science service, The Joint research centre, confirms that all packaging destined for U.K retailers’ shelves undergo many tests and have to meet the European standards before reaching the market. These tests ensure for example, that no chemicals migrate into food.
One of the main roles of plastic packaging is to protect food against contamination and to act as a barrier against microbes, moisture and UV light: along with minimising physical damage to products. Plastic packaging actually helps to protect consumer health rather than damage it. Packaging is part of the solution to minimising impact on the environment when used correctly, not part of the problem; even more so now that companies are truly creating innovative sustainable packaging technologies.
We need to stop being anti packaging and actually embrace it for how much it helps us in our every day life, from reducing food waste, saving us money and just making things a lot more convenient - imagine your daily life without the help of packaging!
*Image from INCPEN