Food Packaging Waste
Did you know each year 3.3 million tons of plastic end up in landfills with plastic packaging contributing to half of the total?
In this blog, we will first get to know what is food packaging waste, discuss the impacts of food packaging waste on the environment and lastly, we will find out some practical ways of reducing food packaging waste.
Food packaging waste consists of containers that are difficult to be degraded and are non-compostable. It includes packages like wax, metal, ceramics, plastics, glass, many cardboards etc.
The impacts of food packaging waste on the environment
Of millions of tons of solid waste produced in the US, 63% has been derived from packaging material. According to US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), almost half of all municipal solid waste is produced food packaging waste and is regarded as an issue of utmost concern. On an almost daily basis, we throw away the food packaging containers like glass, plastic, and aluminum packaging hence we are indirectly contributing to the issue of degradation of the climate. Generally, food containers we see on daily basis in grocery stores are designed for single-use and are typically thrown away rather than getting recycled or reusing it.
Each type of packaging uses a lot of resources like water, energy, minerals, petroleum, chemicals, fibres, and wood for its production. The manufacturing of packaging material often generates air emissions including heavy metals, greenhouse gases, and other toxic contaminants. Moreover, some impacts of food packaging waste on the environment are discussed below:
Dry particles and dust particles hanging in the air in the form of gasses, smoke, and vapours are the cause of air pollution in the environment. For example, wasteful packaging increases incineration activities which leads to the production of hazardous gases like CFCs, vinyl chloride, and hexane which typically infiltrate the environment.
Food packaging production contributes to increasing water use along with causing water pollution. For example, plastic pellets used in the packaging can affect the water because the pellets leach down into the water by releasing toxic chemicals.
Some percentage of packaging waste is accumulated in our environment in the form of litter. Many people complain about litter because it poses health hazards to human beings too. For example, excessive cardboard packaging can be a fire hazard while broken glass causes injuries. Also, accumulation of litter can result in the clogging of storm drains and can also be a source of algal blooms in water thus impacting wild and aquatic life which use this water. Litter also attracts the vermin population by creating breeding grounds, therefore, threatening public health.
The majority of packaging material takes a long time to be degraded for example Styrofoam cups and plastic bag takes 500 years or forever to be degraded, hence decreasing landfill space. Chemicals from the packaging material including dyes and inks from labelling can leach into soil and groundwater.
Birds’ life and Sea life
Every year, plastic packaging of food kills over one million marine birds both directly or through the food chain. Usually, plastic packaging got tangled up or caught and gets them either killed or injured. Moreover, the ingestion of plastic causes fatalities for sea life. Every year around 100,000 marine animals die because of waste pollution, especially by plastic accumulation in water bodies.
Some practical ways of reducing food packaging waste
- Buy loose products like Vegetables, and fruits instead of using pre-packed products
- Reusing packaged products such as plastic bags, paper, and wrapping paper whenever possible
- We should carry our water bottles, reusable bags, straws, coffee cups, and utensils when needed
- We should make a meal plan. Don’t buy extra products. Plan a shopping list and just buy what you need.
- If food packaging products can’t be avoided, we should find recyclable packaging products ideally made from recycled materials