As the name suggests, single-use plastics are intended for one-off use only.
In addition to plastic containers, single-use plastic items like straws, coffee stirrers, disposable cups, and plastic cutlery are widely used in the food industry worldwide, although some countries have recently introduced bans for specific items like plastic straws.
While single-use plastic containers and other items are convenient and cheap compared to other manufacturing options, which is why they remain so popular, disposable plastics have a huge negative impact on the environment.
Let’s look closer at single-use plastic containers in the food industry.
The Problem with Single-use Plastic Containers
Many companies in the food industry are starting to use fewer single-use plastic containers and more reusable containers due to their environmental impact. However, there has been massive growth in the takeaway food sector in recent years, contributing to large amounts of single-use plastic containers being discarded yearly.
Single-use plastics cannot generally be recycled due to food residues, meaning most takeaway plastic containers are in a landfill. When single-use plastic containers are discarded in landfills, they can take up to a thousand years to decompose.
That isn’t the only issue. Due to the light weight of plastic food containers, they don’t always remain in the places where they are dumped. The wind picks many up, meaning they can travel great distances.
Furthermore, the process of manufacturing single-use plastics is very fossil fuel-heavy. So, it should be clear just how big the problem of single-use plastic containers is regarding their harmful effects on the natural world.
Solving the Problem
The most effective ways of lowering single-use plastic food containers and other single-use plastic items are to reduce the amount of single-use plastic produced by adopting alternative materials and promoting reusability and recycling where possible to extend the life cycle of the items.
Also, extruders for plastics manufacturing, machines that apply heat and pressure to melt and produce plastic into food containers and other items, can sometimes manufacture recyclable plastic. That could also help the food packaging industry to be eco-friendlier.
Sustainable Food Packaging
The best way to solve the problem of single-use plastic food containers is for manufacturers to switch to sustainable food packaging; or for businesses to stop using manufacturers who produce single-use plastics.
Thankfully, the shift to using compostable, biodegradable, or recyclable food containers is occurring, and more and more businesses are becoming more environmentally conscious.
But at the same time, the industry is a long way away from compostable, biodegradable, or recyclable food containers being the norm.
Not every business operating in the food industry can offer refillable containers. Still, when it’s possible to go down this route, it’s a great way to prevent more single-use plastic containers from ending up in landfills.
For instance, takeaways wouldn’t be able to offer refillable containers, but stores could sell food products in containers that can be refilled with future purchases.
You Can Make a Difference
You don’t have to wait for businesses in the food industry to change their ways. You can make a difference to the problem of single-use plastic food containers’ impact on the environment by ensuring you don’t purchase products that come in non-recyclable or non-refillable containers.
You might be hard pushed to find takeaways in your local area that use non-single-use plastic containers, but there are plenty of other ways you can avoid buying food that comes in such containers. So, be more environmentally aware the next time you shop. Buy items that come in recyclable or refillable containers as much as possible.
When buyers’ habits change, the industry will eventually have no choice but to give in to consumer demand and change their ways, in the same way that food industries have had to recently adapt to the growing demand for plant-based products.