That luscious red tomato, green cucumber, and black-olive salad sprinkled with creamy feta may look appealing in its crystal-clear polystyrene dome, but that doesnâ??t make it taste any better! We want to invest in environmentally sound practices when it comes to food packaging.
That luscious red tomato, green cucumber, and black-olive salad sprinkled with creamy feta may look appealing in its crystal-clear polystyrene dome, but that doesn’t make it taste any better!
We want to invest in environmentally sound practices when it comes to food packaging. However, conflict can arise between the need for economical, disposable food packaging and ecologically safe packaging materials.
More than 50 percent of all solid waste collected in Canada is household garbage, and at least one-third of that is packaging. Petroleum-based plastic, polystyrene, or ozone-unfriendly containers, cups, plates, and utensils can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfill sites. Incineration of these plastics releases toxic fumes. This is not a legacy we want to bestow on our descendents!
As an alternative to petroleum-based plastics, bio-plastics are materials with plastic-like properties made from renewable resources such as corn, wheat, rice, soy, and potato starches.
The advantages to the food industry, and to us as consumers, are that these vegetable-starch based plastics are clear, so they provide a good view of the food; they are durable in that they resist cracking in the freezer; they provide a protective barrier against oils and fats; and they are odourless.
Plastics developed from vegetable starches are made from a renewable resource, and they do not emit toxic fumes when burned. On the other hand, these plastics will only biodegrade when heated or burned; therefore, they are neither suitable for hot beverages or hot foods nor for reheating in a microwave oven. Incinerating waste vegetable-starch plastics, instead of recycling, adds energy costs to run commercial incinerators.
Scientists are working on edible wrapping for foods, although the outer layer of packaging will still have to be impervious to bacteria, oils, and moisture to provide food safety.
We as consumers are a powerful force because we can demand ecologically safe products and environmentally sound practices from the food packaging industry. Our show of force is demonstrated in the products we do and don’t buy. Let’s buy wisely and invest in our future.
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