By Sagrika Sanjay
FAO in 2012 stated “roughly one-third of food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted.” The concept is achieving sustainability for Earth to continue supporting life.
In simple terms, packaging provides protection to the material inside the package so that it remains safe from any sort of damage and can reach the customer in a sound condition with maximum wholesomeness. Environmental sustainability is of a serious concern especially when it comes to product packaging. Some of the most common household packages – including potato chip bags & pizza boxes are often not recyclable. The packaging industry faces challenges from the ever-growing demands of consumers, ranging from longer shelf life for packaged food & beverages to ease of handling, safety and health as well as higher demand for environment-friendly materials.
The Food market is constantly growing, facing great competition every day. Development of processed food has changed lifestyles leading to increased demand for RTE & RTC foods; growing health awareness among consumers has led to preference for branded packed products over unpacked formats and raised concern regarding the safety of the environment. But technology never lags behind. One of the things being talked and thought about is recycled packaging.
Packaging material is looked at as environment unfriendly but the main problem which is really faced is waste disposal. Packaging makes up about 30-40 percent of all solid waste in those municipal waste streams including cardboard boxes, plastics, and foam. “The packaging thrown away annually totals nearly 39 million tons of paper/paperboard, 13.7 million tons of plastic and 10.9 million tons of glass.”
A report says “the total amount of packaging waste from 2005 to 2010 grew 1.8 percent annually”. Companies often over-package their products for shipping without realizing it. Paper and cardboard, glass, plastics, wood and metals are the most common types of packaging waste.
If we talk about plastic, 90 percent of plastics are recyclable. Fortunately, in a country like India, recycling is economy driven. News tells that 65 percent of the plastic in our country is recycled. Recycling of plastic consists of shredding, remelting and recycling. The recycling machine consists of a grinder, an extruder and a palletizer. After sorting the plastic according to its grade, the plastic is put into an agglomerator that heats and shreds the plastic into fine flakes called the “agglu”. After this, the plastic is moved to the extruder where it is heated, extruded and solidified into strands by passing it through cold water. The plastics are turned to pallets, which act as the new raw material for moulding.
In the food industry, the recyclable packaging material includes extrusion coated wrapper for foods, matte finish pouch, side gusset off center seal packs, high barrier laminates with aluminum foil and laminate pouch for wet tissue; corrugated packaging material, customized packaging material and industrial packaging material along with cling films and vacuum skin packaging films, which are preferable for food. Other recycled packaging includes storage containers, light weight containers, packaging containers, tin containers and industrial containers. The process of recycling plastics for functional use is energy intensive and makes up two-third of the cost of production.
Besides these, some food industries have also developed bio degradable food packaging products like plates, bowls, trays, spoons, forks, knives, compartment or partition plates, biryani boxes etc.
Eco-friendly packaging materials include corn starch, bubble wrap, bio-degradable plastics, eco-friendly packaging applications etc. A study was concluded at CRTRI, Mysore, wherein the film from milk pouches and plastics collected from different sources was recycled and used for food grade packaging. The European commission has made regulations on use of recycled plastics coming in contact with food. This process will be examined by the European Food Safety Authority before it makes recommendations to the European Commission.
Packaging offers a safe, hygienic and cost effective means of packing both raw and processed food products. Recycled packaging will reduce food spoilage during storage & transportation and increase shelf life of products in retail stores. In India, raw materials, machinery as well as finished products that are required to manufacture recycled packaging products are available in ample amount.