Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Packaging

Advances in food packaging have delivered important benefits for food safety and for the durability of food (thus reducing food waste and the associated waste of resources and avoidable GHG emissions) and the sector is continuously innovating. However the packaging sector is also a user of nonrenewable resources and fossil fuels, and generates waste disposal issues.

5 May 2020

This book examines the material properties and sustainability of various polymers that can be used for food packaging, such as bioplastics and edible food packaging.

16 March 2020

This report from the UK think tank Green Alliance argues that the problem of plastic pollution cannot be solved by simply replacing plastic with alternative materials - instead, a system-wide transition to a circular economy is required, prioritising safety, sustainability and efficiency. The report focuses on the UK’s culture of single-use packaging.

3 March 2020

Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic formed as larger pieces break down in the environment, or else intentionally manufactured (e.g. as microbeads for cleaning products or pellets for industrial use). This paper reviews the current state of knowledge on their human health implications and effects on ecosystems. 

18 February 2020

UK waste charity WRAP has published guidance on compostable plastic packaging, aimed at retailers and manufacturers. The guidance covers what compostable plastics are, how they might contaminate conventional plastic recycling processes, how to label them appropriately to help people dispose of them, and six applications where compostable plastic packaging is likely to be beneficial within the UK’s current waste management infrastructure.

13 January 2020

This report from FoodPrint, part of the GRACE Communications Foundation, describes the problems associated with plastic, metal and paper/fibre food packaging. It also sets out potential solutions, including reusable food containers, plastics that can be more easily recycled, compostable packaging materials, and bans on certain types of packaging (e.g. plastic straws).

22 October 2019

This report from the UK Food Ethics Council details the verdict reached by the “jury” in the event “Food Policy on Trial: In the dock – plain packaging on junk food & drink”. The jury (consisting of four volunteer members of the Food Ethics Council) concluded that much stronger regulation is required on food and drink packaging, for example banning the use of cartoon figures to market unhealthy foods to children, but also thought that introducing plain packaging on certain foods and drinks should be kept as a potential future intervention rather than introduced immediately.

16 July 2019

FCRN member Ujué Fresán has co-authored this paper, which calculates the environmental impacts associated with the packaging of several breakfast foods (including orange juice, cereals and peanut butter). For each food product, significant differences in carbon footprint were found, depending on packaging size, packaging materials and brand. Packaging consistently accounted for a lower carbon footprint than production of the food item itself.

20 March 2019

This report by US non-profit Centre for International Environmental Law reviews research on the human health impacts of plastics throughout their lifecycle, including extraction of fossil fuels, refining and production, consumer use, waste management, fragmenting and microplastics and accumulation of plastics in food chains.

19 November 2018

This feature in the Guardian explores the reasons for the rapid growth of the anti-plastic movement. It also describes historical lobbying campaigns that painted plastic packaging as being the responsibility of the consumer rather than manufacturers, and outlines some of the issues associated with recycling plastic (in comparison to recycling, say, glass or metals).

2 October 2018

This book, edited by Shakeel Ahmed, showcases the latest research and applications in bio-based food packaging materials.

2 October 2018

Utilities company Veolia and plastics charity RECOUP have together released the report “Plan for plastics”, which considers how the UK can improve plastic recycling. The report finds that 93% of people think plastic bottles should be made with recycled materials and are willing to pay 2.5 pence more, on average, for a recycled bottle (compared to a non-recycled bottle). Less than 5% of plastic film is currently recycled, compared to 59% of plastic bottles.

20 August 2018

The UK’s Local Government Association (LGA) has called for industry to stop creating non-recyclable food packaging, saying that “Councils have done all they can,” to tackle the issue of plastic recycling. The LGA has found that only one-third of plastic packaging used by households can be recycled.

10 July 2018

Disruptions to supplies of food-grade CO2 in Europe are causing shortages of carbonated drinks, meat and crumpets, and could threaten animal welfare. Gasworld explains that several European CO2 plants have prolonged their periods of maintenance downtime due to low CO2 prices (read more here).

26 May 2018

A report by Friends of the Earth Europe finds that plastic food packaging is not a solution to growing levels of food waste in Europe, contrary to some claims that packaging can reduce food waste by extending the shelf life of foods. For example, using packaging to group food together in larger packs could encourage customers to buy more food than necessary. Another example is that green beans are often cut to fit into the packaging, causing losses of 30 to 40%.

21 May 2018

Shoppers do not notice sustainability rating logos on packaging, according to a report by QuadPackaging and Package Insight. In the study, 60 participants had their eye movements tracked while “shopping” in a retail laboratory. The products they were presented with were fictional brands with logos claiming different levels of sustainability. The logos did not represent a real sustainability standard. While 40% of the participants said that sustainability affects their purchasing decisions, the eye-tracking technology showed that 92% of the participants did not notice the sustainability logos.

30 April 2018

Scientists have unintentionally created a variant of a bacterial enzyme that is 20% better than the original at breaking down polyethylene terephthalate, commonly used to make plastic bottles. The researchers were investigating the properties of a bacterium that has naturally evolved to digest plastic.

30 April 2018

UK charity WRAP has launched the UK Plastics Pact, a voluntary scheme which brings together businesses responsible for 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold in UK supermarkets. The pact aims to make 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, among other goals.