There is 26 million tonnes of household waste produced each year and 3.2 million tonnes of this is through food packaging. In the UK there are 15 million plastic bottles used every day and less than 3% of these are recycled. Less that 1% of billions of plastic bags are recycled a year and the majority of them are used only once. It is numbers such as these that have a serious effect on the environment we live in and if things continue to go as they do, the environment will cease to be as we know it now.
Food packaging plays a vital role in our society and has proven to make life easier and far more beneficial over the years. A lot of our food sources come from overseas or places that require the deliverer to travel some distance. It is therefore important to make sure that these products are properly protected so that they don’t become damaged. Food packaging also acts a physical barrier between the food product and the outside world. This is vital for keeping the product free from contamination, fresh and unspoiled. The shelf life of a food can be dramatically increased when packaged correctly preventing food wastage and saving you money. There are of course some other benefits when it comes to food packaging, it is able to carry consumer information, instructions and is used for attracting and drawing in particular audiences.
Although all of the above are beneficial and good causes for using food packaging, they do also come with detrimental effects towards the environment. Landfills are fuller than ever and the burning of products is adding to greenhouse gasses that are emitted into our ozone. Even packaging that is biodegradable is struggling to break down in such places as there is a lack of air and moisture that is needed for bacteria to flourish. This means that packaging is accumulating and could still be recognisable even 20 years down the line. It is for reasons such as these that we must work together to recycle and reuse what we can to prolong the life of our planet and keep it habitable for generations to come.
What can we do?
To prevent more and more unnecessary waste and to protect our planet from habitat destruction and deforestation there are certain measures we must take. By following the 3R’s packaging can be monitored and coordinated so that waste is reduced and sustainability is increased.
Reduce –to help limit the amount of packaging going to landfill sights it must first and foremost be reduced at the manufacturers end. In order to achieve this the number of layers, materials and toxins that are found in food packaging sources must be decreased.
Reuse – in order for people to reuse packaging it must be designed so it can be. Whether or not it’s returnable, refillable or durable all of these factors can help contribute to the reuse of packaging. If more packaging is made to meet these expectations there will be less need to manufacture more of it.
Recycle – the final R is of course to recycle. Everything eventually becomes too damaged or worn to use and is therefore no longer fit for the purpose it was intended. This doesn’t however mean that it can never be used again. If the packaging is designed to be reusable recycle it and allow it to become something else.
Following the 3R’s will help to reduce the amount of packaging made, lower pollution, cut down on forestation and keep greenhouse gases at a safe level. Following the 3R’s will help keep our planet safe and help it to prosper for as long as possible. Help to keep our planet safe and clean for our children’s children and their children’s children.