7 types of organic food packaging and which ones to avoid
The risks to human health and the environment associated with the use of plastic containers mean that more and more ecological options for food packaging are being manufactured. We present them here.
The use of plastic is one of the most urgent environmental problems that humanity must face to reduce global warming. Much of this waste corresponds to the food industry and its packaging. Therefore, it is important to know the types of eco-friendly food packaging.
Millions of tons of plastic waste stagnate in the seas while affecting human and animal health, as this study from the University of Seville shows. The long degradation time that this material has led to the search for alternatives for the storage and transport of food.
What types of organic food packaging are there?
Ecological packaging refers to food containers that are less polluting than those whose raw material for manufacturing comes from fossil fuels. They are presented as an alternative to plastic containers, which account for 40% of the total production of this material.
There are many materials considered more ecological than plastics when it comes to food packaging. Among them are glass, bamboo, wood, and stainless steel. Their adoption has multiple advantages, such as the fact that they have a shorter decomposition period, which means that they are biodegradable or compostable.
On the other hand, they do not interfere with the flavor of food and can withstand high temperatures. Although, depending on the material, they have lower durability. However, environmental care is one of the most relevant reasons to habituate daily consumption towards the types of ecological food packaging.
Why are the different types of organic food packaging necessary?
It is estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year. This has generated a historical accumulation in different sectors of the planet, where at least five islands made up of plastic waste have already been recorded.
Such waste takes years and sometimes decades to break down. However, upon exposure to ultraviolet radiation, wind, and wave abrasion, the material breaks up into particles called nanoplastics.
These tiny pieces affect the aquatic ecosystem, being ingested by marine fauna and, later, derived for human consumption. This is suggested by various scientific studies, such as this work from the University of Granada.
The toxicity of plastic packaging
Another reason to reduce the consumption of plastic containers is that dozens of chemical substances used in their production are harmful to human health . According to this study, 906 polymers, adhesives, and other chemical additives are involved in the composition of plastic containers.
Of this total, 63 occupy the highest place in terms of dangers to human health and 68, in relation to environmental danger. And this only takes into account the chemicals added intentionally.
There are other impurities that arise during the manufacturing process or are a by-product of the breakdown of additives. Known as Unintentionally Added Substances, or NIAS, they pose other hazards that are difficult to determine and investigate.
7 types of organic food packaging
According to UN reports, one million plastic bottles are bought in the world every minute and 500 billion bags are used. Reducing single-use plastics is an everyday task that also applies to food packaging.
Different studies have analyzed more ecological alternatives for storing, preserving, and transporting food. Some materials used are biopolymers based on cellulose nanofiber and essential oil, among other components. Wheat, wood, and bamboo are positioned as elements from which to make biodegradable packaging.
That is, they break down under natural environmental conditions, thanks to the action of biological agents such as fungi, plants, bacteria, animals and the sun. These containers have fewer chemicals than plastics, so they are favorable for human health and the environment.
1. Wooden plates and containers
Wooden containers are reusable, that is, they are not discarded on the first use. Wheat pulp containers and wooden dishes are safe for human health. Although they contain some chemicals, the transfer to food is much less compared to plastics.
2. Glass bottles
Glass is a durable, resistant, recyclable material with a multiplicity of uses. According to this study, glass containers dedicated to food are recommended. This is due to its antibacterial properties and the low migration of toxic substances into food.
Glass bottles are being used more and more and designs for all occasions abound. But special attention must be paid to its sanitization to avoid the accumulation of bacteria in the beak.
3. PLA cups
The glasses with PLA are very similar to the common ones, they have a transparent tone and are ideal for water, juices, and any cold drink. More and more people use them due to their compostable nature. That is, they degrade in natural environments and in a short time.
In addition, they work for the formation of fertilizer in composting plants. They are made from an ecological polymer from potato starch, corn starch, and other plants. A variant with other additives, called CPLA, is used to withstand higher temperatures.
4. Types of rice husk organic food packaging
The containers made from rice husks, obtained in the cultivation of rice, are biodegradable, economical, and resistant. Additionally, a scientific study found that this absorbent material has the potential to remove various contaminants. Different food transport containers are available for sale.
Bamboo fibers are widely used to make biodegradable containers, such as bowls, boxes, lids, and jars. A study published in ScienceDirect highlights its mechanical and thermal properties as highly advantageous for this purpose. However, it has the disadvantage of wearing out more quickly than other materials.
Sugarcane bagasse is a set of fibers left over from the industrial process of this plant. This material has begun to be used as a base for the manufacture of plates and containers for the distribution of food. A study verified its potential for storage thanks to its resistance to high temperatures.
7. Stainless steel
Nothing better than a resistant, durable, stainless, and reusable material for storing food. It is an option that has objects such as lunch boxes and thermoses. In addition, containers with airtight lids are often used for the storage of grains, flour, and spices.
In addition to the above, this is a fairly friendly material with the environment. It turns out that, due to its very resistance, durability, and stainless capacity, when the containers and elements made from this material are discarded, they can be recycled very easily. Likewise, as experts say, stainless steel is widely used in other sectors, such as construction, because it helps save energy and water.
Single-use plastics: what they are and which ones we should avoid
These are objects made with plastic materials, made through petroleum derivatives, and that is discarded after the first use. This generates serious damage to the environment since they take years and even decades to degrade.
But it is not the only danger that these objects represent since the packaging of food in plastics carries the risk of transferring toxic substances. Numerous studies, such as the one published on the Salud Ambiental scientific portal, prove that materials in contact with food are a route of exposure to dangerous chemical substances.
This includes some known and others not toxicologically characterized. Therefore, it is convenient to avoid the consumption of the following single-use plastics:
- Disposable cups and cutlery.
- Straws or straws.
Tips to stop using plastics and apply other types of ecological food packaging
There are new laws in Spain and in the European Union that limit the sale of single-use plastics. However, there are also individual actions that can be taken in everyday life. For example, take cloth bags to go shopping and use recyclable or reusable hygiene items.
Regarding food, it is important to avoid single-use utensils and packaging, prioritizing types of organic food packaging. These objects are manufactured and marketed more and more, so the available offer is diversified.