More than 80 million tons of plastic packaging is produced annually, leading to pollution and ecosystem endangerment.
With a recycling rate of only 5-6%, the majority of plastic ends up in landfills and waterways, contributing to the projected reality of more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.
To address this pressing issue, a shift in product development and packaging is necessary and compostable packaging emerges as a significant contributor to a sustainable future.
Increased awareness and education about compostable alternatives empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions and drive positive change.
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Food packaging challenges and creative solutions
While the dependence on plastic packaging persists due to the belief that it offers unmatched functionality, this assumption is not universally valid.
Many applications such as packaging for screws and parts, can be fulfilled by more sustainable options. However, when it comes to food packaging, specific functionalities are essential to protect, preserve and ensure product safety.
Since different food items have varying packaging needs, a one-size-fits-all solution is not available. Collaboration and creative thinking are crucial in developing functional and sustainable food packaging solutions.
Regulatory incentives and technical hurdles
The adoption of sustainable packaging faces challenges that require government intervention and technical innovations. Governments can incentivize the use of sustainable materials by offering credits or offsets for the incremental costs, creating a regulatory environment that encourages companies to prioritize sustainable packaging.
Addressing concerns over product integrity and compatibility, particularly for high-moisture foods such as yoghurt or hummus, is a technical hurdle. The water barrier functionality of plastic packaging is critical for such products.
Overcoming these challenges demands innovation, long-term investment and the support of established companies and ESG-focused investors.
Innovation and change: modifying products, not just packaging
The key to solving the packaging problem lies in re-evaluating the approach. By modifying the food products themselves to require fewer packaging functionalities, compatibility with a wider range of sustainable and bio-based materials becomes possible.
Integrating barrier materials such as edible coatings or outer layers, is an emerging solution in sustainable packaging. Companies such as Mori, Apeel and Foodberry offer innovative options.
Edible barriers can be applied to fresh foods’ existing peels to extend shelf life, while coatings made of fibres, phytonutrients and minerals mimic fruit skins, allowing hydrated foods to be distributed in bulk or sold in compostable or biodegradable packaging.
The benefits of sustainable packaging
Embracing sustainable packaging brings benefits to businesses, consumers, the environment and the economy as a whole. It fosters innovation and product differentiation and aligns with consumer preferences for sustainability.
By introducing new solutions, businesses can leverage sustainability as an innovation catalyst, reducing environmental harm, improving human health and paving the way for a healthier and more sustainable future.