When you ate breakfast this morning, you were probably more focused on the food than the packaging it came in, but all packaging supplies should be chosen with a number of factors in mind.
Keeping your food fresh
Considering that the people of the UK throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year, finding ways and materials to package food to keep it fresher for longer is a constant objective. Research done by WRAP, a resource efficiency charity which focuses on food waste reduction, estimated that around 250,000 tonnes of food waste from households and supply chains in the UK could be prevented by a one day increase in product life. This would also result in a potential saving of up to £500 million a year.
Minimising waste disposal and environmental damage
In 2012, the UK generated 200 million tonnes of waste in total, and in 2014, the UK recycling rate of waste from households reached just under 50%. Food packaging makes up a significant proportion of household waste, so using materials which are either recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable is becoming ever more important. Particularly as the government are encouraging a more environment-conscious nation.
Safety to the consumer
This applies both to the compounds in the packaging supplies themselves, and to the ingredients put in food to preserve it. Research has shown that certain compounds in plastic, like Bisphenol A and phthalates, can leach into the food and drink that is then consumed, and the risk of this increases if those plastics are heated to high temperatures.
The Food Standards Agency has said: “Very small amounts of BPA can transfer from packaging into food and drinks, but these levels of exposure are not considered to be harmful. Independent experts have worked out how much BPA we can consume without coming to any harm, and the amount people absorb from all food and drink is significantly below this level.”
Because of these factors (which certainly aren’t exhaustive), the UK sees continuous innovation in food packaging, one of which is biodegradable packaging.
What is biodegradable packaging?
Biodegradable packaging supplies are eco-friendly, meaning they are safe for the environment and can be completely compostable. A biodegradable material is ideal for businesses that sell food in disposable packaging but want to be seen as ‘green’ without compromising on quality.
Unlike many renewable bioplastics which are made from materials like corn and wheat, NatureFlex is based on cellulose, an organic material derived from renewable and sustainably harvested wood pulp. Not only is it resistant to grease, oil, and fats, it can be used safely in microwaves and ovens (although there is a recommended maximum temperature and time). It’s also coated in a variable moisture barrier to improve the shelf life of the products they contain, is static free, and can be heat-sealed. As if that wasn’t enough, NatureFlex is marine degradable as well as compostable.
This is a polymer made from renewable corn starch. It’s non-toxic, so can be used safely with all foods, and it degrades to CO2 and H2O in 45 days, making it compostable.
You’d think that as paper comes from trees it would be automatically biodegradable, but that’s not always the case. Paper plates, for example, are layered in plastic, but this slows down the decomposition process. If paper is sourced from renewable locations and isn’t mixed with non-biodegradable materials, it’s an ideal eco-friendly option. It’s also an excellent choice if you want customised packaging, as it can be created in various different colours and is easy to print on – in a sustainable ink, of course!
The future of quality packaging supplies
We expect the packaging industry to continue innovative manufacturing in plastics and foils as well as in biodegradable materials. The latter will have the environment in mind, but will be designed to be cost effective for the suppliers and fit for purpose and safe for the consumer. They may come from sustainable crops, be developed from starch, sugars, and plant fibre, be more carbon neutral, and take less energy to make.
About the author
Charlotte Packaging is the UK’s leading provider of quality packaging supplies, with over 40 years’ experience delivering packaging made from the highest quality materials that are fit for your purpose. We provide a huge range of products made from different materials, including a special range of biodegradable packaging. Contacting us is easy, just click here.