Modern food packaging makes food safe, dependable, shelf-stable, and sanitary. Unfortunately, the majority of food packaging is single-use and can not be recycled. Instead, packaging is discarded, littering our rivers. The United Nations has dubbed plastic pollution of the oceans a “planetary crisis” because so much food packaging (particularly plastic) has ended up in waterways.
This is a problem that affects all aquatic life, not just mankind. Packaging of food has a number of other negative effects on the environment, such as on our air and soil.
While unpackaged food may be difficult to come by, there are options for packaging that is less hazardous to animals, people, and the environment.
Food Packaging Roles and Materials:
Food packaging has three purposes: to protect food from outside influences and distribution damage, to contain the food, and to give consumers with ingredient and nutrition information. Secondary functionalities such as traceability, convenience, and tamper detection are becoming increasingly important. Food packaging’s purpose is to enclose food in a cost-effective manner that meets industry and customer demands, ensures food safety, and reduces environmental impact.
The design and construction of a food product’s package has a big impact on its shelf life. Product quality and freshness are preserved during distribution and storage when the correct packaging materials and technologies are used. Glass, metals (aluminum, foils and laminates, tinplate, and tin-free steel), paper and paperboards, and polymers have all been used in food packaging in the past. To take advantage of each material’s functional or aesthetic features, today’s food containers frequently blend various materials.
The Impacts of Food Packaging on the Environment:
Unfortunately, most packaging is meant to be used once and then discarded rather than recycled or repurposed. Food and food packaging materials account for over half of all solid waste trash, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Trouble with Food Packaging:
The problem with food boxes for packaging starts at the design stage. Each type of packaging necessitates the use of numerous resources, including energy, water, chemicals, petroleum, minerals, wood, and textiles. Its production frequently releases greenhouse gases, heavy metals, and particles into the air, as well as wastewater and/or sludge containing harmful pollutants.
Food boxes packaging material is transformed into liquid in glass manufacturing companies, by burning fossil fuels. These fossil fuels can be natural gas, light and heavy fuel oils, and liquefied petroleum gas. Greenhouse gases, Sulphur oxides, and nitrogen oxides are among the air pollutants produced by the combustion of fuels. Fine particles containing heavy metals such as arsenic and lead are emitted as a result of the vaporization and recrystallization of feedstock material.
Natural gas generated either from natural gas processing or crude oil refining, is the most common source of feed stocks for plastics production in the United States. Polypropylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, and polyethylene are the seven types of plastic polymers that account for 70% of all plastic production. They’re all created from fossil fuels and utilized in food packaging.
In the United States, the plastics industry is responsible for a large quantity of greenhouse gas emissions, up to 1%. The year 1920. Nitrous oxides, hydro fluorocarbons, per fluorocarbons, and Sulphur hexafluoride are among the other air pollutants released by the plastics industry.
Birds and Marine Mammals Affected by Food Packaging:
The amount of plastic in the sea is extremely damaging to wildlife. Dead birds with plastic bags in their guts, turtles with straws hooked in their noses, whales with plastic bags in their guts, and animals with plastic bags and six-pack rings wrapped around their bodies are among the 35 stories.
Plastic has been identified in 59 percent of sea birds like albatross and pelicans, 100 percent of sea turtle species, and more than 25% of fish examined from seafood markets around the world, according to Ocean Conservancy.
Air Pollution from Food Packaging:
Food packaging waste that isn’t recycled or composted is usually disposed of in landfills or burned. While both approaches have advantages in terms of waste management, they both emit pollutants into the atmosphere, notably greenhouse gases. Incinerators can emit mercury, lead, hydrogen chloride, Sulphur dioxides, nitrous oxides, and particulates, whereas landfills produce ammonia and hydrogen supplied.
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