Eco-friendly food packaging you can count on
Choosing food packaging that doesn’t affect your health or the environment can be tough. Whether you’re taking your own food on a trip or trying to choose the best option for a take-away dinner, healthy living advocate Dr Alice Williams has broken down the best options for eco-friendly packaging for us.
Living healthily does not just talk about the food you eat, but what surrounds it as well. One prime example is food packaging. Non-biodegradable food packages from plastics can directly affect your health as much as it affects our environment.
Plastic food-packaging contains chemicals that can also directly affect your health. One example is BPA, a substance found in plastics that can affect your hormone system which is also known as “endocrine disruptors”. BPAs are coated into plastic and food cans to prevent bacteria. Unfortunately, it too has setbacks of its own.
Alternative types of food packaging were invented over time to solve this ongoing issue. However, the reality is that food can be tough to store, especially saucy food types. The last thing we want is our meals leaking into our bags or our hands covered in grease.
Fortunately, studies have found that companies are starting to go green with their food packaging. Scholars and scientists are discovering better packaging materials for to-go food or for travelers who want to keep their food nice and warm while prioritizing their health.
Here’s a list of sturdy and sustainable materials to help you or your business find healthier options for food packaging!
Materials of Eco-Friendly Packaging
If you’re looking for durable and affordable packaging that serves as a container where you could reheat food, bamboo is a preferable choice.
This Indonesian-origin material serves as a heat insulator to seamlessly microwave your food. Bamboo is also resistant to waterborne viruses and bacteria, naturally protecting you from deadly infections. It also requires fewer chemicals than different cardboard packaging that uses white artificial coloring.
Shipping – Although bamboo has sustainable qualities, there are still carbon footprints from shipping these materials overseas that damage the atmosphere. It also wears out faster compared to glass and stainless steel packaging.
Chemical Production – Some countries may use chemical fertilizers and pesticides in growing bamboo that can contaminate and affect the environment.
Regardless, it still produces fewer greenhouse gasses than other traditional packaging materials and decomposes in 182 days.
Sugarcane bagasse is eyed-on to be a good substitute for styrofoam packaging. Its impressive compounds are oil and grease-resistant, making it a well-explored material for food packaging in countries abundant in sugarcane, such as the Philippines. Bagasse is also microwavable and freezer friendly, making it safe for heating and storing cold food.
Essentially, it is 100% biodegradable. Sugarcane bagasse decomposes in at least 4 weeks in the right conditions after being consistently exposed to moisture, micro-organisms, and heat.
Limited Heat Resistance – Despite its heat resistance, sugarcane bagasse may still weaken when exposed to food hotter than 95 degrees Celcius. If it weren’t for this, sugarcane bagasse would have practically no flaws.
Using Sugarcane bagasse for food packaging produces fewer greenhouse gasses per plate than polymer, paper, and plastic. This proves it to be more sustainable and durable for take-away packages than regular paper packaging.
The best quality of glass is that it is a 100% reusable material for food packaging made from fewer chemicals. It is an ideal package type for keeping food fresh and conserving it.
Glass is a unique chemical combination of natural ingredients of sand, limestone, recycled glass, and soda ash. It’s the wonders of alchemy, being able to create nothing but glass from these materials alone. When in packaging, it seals well to protect your food from
Fragile – It’s no secret that glass is highly fragile. Using this to store food when traveling around may not be the best idea.
Expensive – Glass may be costly for mass production businesses. According to Sarkina, making glass requires intense labor. Shipping procedures may be delicate and require extra care due to their heavy and fragile nature.
Carbon Footprint – Creating glass material needs a large amount of energy and heat, making an even higher carbon footprint than plastic. It also rarely reaches recycle bins and often falls into waste instead.
Nonetheless, reuse glass packaging as much as possible to prevent it from becoming waste and harmful to the environment. Glass is also a key ingredient in making it, 80% of gathered glass is recycled and made into new glass material; so remember to segregate garbage correctly and safely!
Stainless steel is highly preferable for traveling with its intact and heat conducting properties. Storing food in metal containers like stainless steel in refrigerators has been a common practice.
One of the best characteristics of stainless steel is its corrosion-resistant properties that combat rusting, water stains, and corrosion. Stainless steel works best in keeping your packed lunch at its preferred temperature when traveling. It’s sturdy, perfect for reusing, and easy to clean and maintain.
Costly – Stainless steel containers may be best for traveling but too expensive for food establishments that opt for eco-friendly packaging.
Not Microwavable – Metals cannot be exposed to radiation heat like microwaves. Using this for quickly heating food is not the best option.
If you’re looking for food containers to safely store your packed food, stainless steel is a good investment in the long run for reusable food packaging.
This new trend of sustainable packaging comes from the outer hull of rice grains and is a byproduct of rice milling. Rice husk is originally excess material from production. However, researchers found its recyclable characteristics, creating it into new products such as food containers, jars, and tumblers.
When used for single-use take-away packaging, rice husks can easily decompose when exposed to microorganisms. Though it may not be as sturdy as glass or stainless steel, its reusable compounds are ideal for creating longer-lasting products for storing food and beverages.
Recycling hice husk is a great example of recycling byproducts and turning them into reusable products that can help reduce plastic consumption.
Science has made a giant step by taking something synthetic and tweaking it into something sustainable. There are different polymers, but biopolymer has been discovered and is considered the eco-friendly future of plastic packaging.
Utilizing it for food packaging is currently explored as a sustainable substitute that can consider other aspects such as customers’ economics, gasses, etc. It comes from reusable and biodegradable resources such as lipids, proteins, and polysaccharides that allow biopolymer to decompose and serve as fertilizers.
In the works – This material is still recently researched but shows a promising future for sustainable food packaging.
Nonetheless, biopolymers are named the third generation of packaging. Bioactive materials such as plant sources can be the solution to creating affordable and durable food packaging.
There are many newfound types of food packaging that serve as an alternative to non-biodegradable such as styrofoam or plastic. Industries and customers are taking a step toward finding healthier options for storing food that doesn’t have to be at the expense of the environment.
But the best way to achieve sustainable food packaging is by recycling and reusing materials as much as possible. The biggest plus about these materials is that they decompose and can serve as fertilizer or be renewed into packaging again. Businesses and individuals investing in products like these are making a big step toward helping the environment.
Thanks so much for this excellent explanation of the eco-friendly options we now have available Dr Alice! If you learnt something from this post be sure to check out Alice’s website for many more excellent and informative posts to help you live healthily and lightly on the planet.
About the author:
Dr Alice Williams is a physician who cares about healthy living. She strive to be as healthy as she can be so she can thrive in her own life. By sharing what she know, she hopes to help others live healthily.