Sustainability is a key issue in food packaging. Almost 60% of consumers want their packaging to be more sustainable and 40% are willing to pay a little more in the process. (source: Asia Pulp and Paper 2013 survey) The fast food, consumer goods and beverage markets, in particular, have work to do on their sustainable packaging. Sustainability standards are measured in four areas: recyclability, compostability, recycled content, and source production. The US lags behind other countries in its recycling efforts – its recycling rate is 34.5% compared to other countries, and packaging recycling is at about 51%. Current packaging practices such as the use of black plastic and the increase in flexible packaging should be looked at, since these two packaging options are not recyclable. (Source: As You Sow & The National Resource Defense Council, Waste and Opportunity 2015)

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The fast food industry especially is a big user of plastic food packaging. The truth remains that the majority of fast food packaging will end up in a landfill. The industry is not doing much to solve this problem. Pressure is on to reduce plastic and paper waste and make recycling easier. Currently only McDonald’s and Starbucks are making efforts to improve their packaging sustainability. Eight companies fared poorly, including Burger King, Domino’s, and Papa Johns. One possible solution to nudge these companies into action? Consumers need to be educated more on recyclability and composting. In turn, government and consumers need to pressure the industry more for change. (Source: NPR – Food Industry Drags Its Heels …)

Among other new developments on the sustainable packaging front is the discovery of Chitosan, a material made from crustacean shells to substitute petroleum by-products (primarily used in plastics). Th e material is highly biodegradable and has anti-microbial properties, making it well suited for the food industry. In testing, for example, it reduced the microbial level of carrots. More research is needed and major use of this material remains a goal for the future. (Source: University of the Basque Country)




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