What’s the first thing you notice when making purchases in the grocery store or big box store? If you answered “packaging,” you were correct. And packaging comes in all sorts of types to meet the different needs of the product whether it’s to ensure food safety or simply to ease transport and display. Whether on the outside to the inside, here are some of the most common types of packaging you might find containing or surrounding your purchases:
- Vacuum pouches
- Thermoformed trays
- Ready made plastic trays
- Lidding film
- Shrink sleeves
- Plastic clamshells
Packaging to Ensure Food Safety and Freshness
That plastic film under the plastic lid covering your yogurt, ice cream or sour cream is called lidding film. It is intended not just to keep the swirl on top looking like it just came off the line but more importantly to keep the product inside fresh. Proper packaging can help prevent foodborne illnesses. And considering 1 out of every 6 Americans get sick each year from food borne illnesses each year, you will come to appreciate the few extra seconds it takes to remove that protective plastic film. Foodborne illness can range from a simple stomach ache to hospitalization or even death.
Plastic Packaging to Help the Environment
Let’s fact it. Most of us are not living a sustainable life where we milk our own cows to make cheese and preserve our bountiful garden harvest by canning to provide all winter long. No. We are buying all of our dairy and a lot of our produce both during summer and winter in the grocery store. That product needs to be made, packaged and transported long distances and the need for packaging is greater than ever. The milk man is not coming with glass bottles that we reuse. We aren’t using our mason jars year after year. Plastics are a recyclable and environmentally responsible way to feed the country. And considering 60% of the population has access to a plastics recycling program, no one need feel guilty about those ready made plastic trays or plastic clamshells their produce comes in. Those can be recycled.
Improvements to Plastics Over Time
If you were drinking or buying soda in 2 liter bottles in 1977, the plastic weighed 68 grams. That same plastic soda bottle today comes in at a mere 47 grams, which is a 31% reduction. That reduction in the amount of plastic in soda bottles alone has resulted in 180 million fewer pounds of packaging. And the same principles that make the amount of plastic needed for soda bottles is also being applied to other types of plastic packaging, saving even more.
Packaging to Decrease Food Waste
As consumers and as citizens, we are not only interested in saving natural resources via more environmentally friendly packaging but reducing food waste as well. Plastics can help with that as well. It is estimated that each pound of plastic packaging can reduce food up to 1.7 lbs.
Other Uses for Plastic Packaging
Consider donating the ready made plastic trays to local preschools or elementary schools for paint and holding other arts and crafts. Visit online craft sites for even more ideas on how to reuse much of the plastic packaging even before recycling.
Choosing products packaged with plastic can help consumers by reducing food waste in their homes and by allowing the plastic to be recycled to be used in another product. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact their purchases have on the environment. In fact 52% say they are considering the impact at the point of sale, and their decision is partly based on evidence of a company’s commitment to environmentally responsible practices. Plastic is an environmentally responsible and practical choice.
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