Plastic pollution has become an increasingly serious environmental issue. It is estimated that there are currently 8 million tons of conventional plastic floating in the world’s oceans.
While the majority of plastic debris comes from land-based sources such as rivers, lakes, and beaches, the largest contributor to marine plastic pollution is the food industry.
In this article, we’ll explore the impact of the food industry on plastic pollution and how consumers can reduce their own packaging waste and environmental impact.
Types of Biodegradable Food Packaging Materials
Biodegradable plastics can be classified into two categories: compostable plastic and bio-degradable plastic. Compostable plastics degrade naturally through microbial action within soil or water environments. Bio-degradable plastics break down by chemical means such as hydrolysis, oxidation, photolytic degradation, enzymatic decomposition, thermal breakdown, mechanical forces, radiation, or other processes that do not involve biological activity.
The most common types of biodegradable plastics include polylactic acid, polycaprolactone, starch based films, cellulose acetate, aliphatic polyesters, and blends thereof.
Made from plant-based sources including corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava root, cottonseed, sunflower seed, rapeseed, sesame seeds, coconut milk, palm kernel meal, whey powder, yeast extract, molasses, dextrose, citric acid, lactic acid, polyglycolic acid, sodium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, potassium phosphate monobasic, ammonium chloride, urea , and guar gum. Polylactides degrade at different rates depending on the source of lactide. Corn based PLA breaks down quickly, whereas PLA derived from microorganisms takes about two years to completely disintegrate.
A type of foam made from cornstarch, soy protein, wheat flour, sugarcane fiber, potato starch, rice bran oil, glycerol, and other additives. It’s used primarily for packing meat products like sausages, bacon, ham, chicken breasts, steaks, fish fillets, ground beef patties, and turkey breast pieces. The material has been shown to break down within 60 days under normal conditions.
Biodegradable Tablecloths & Napkins
While cloth table linens might seem old fashioned, they actually work better than disposables in terms of sustainability. Cloth materials degrade naturally once they’ve served their purpose whereas most single-use disposables require energy intensive processes to break down. Plus, there’s no need to buy new ones each time you clean your kitchen. Just toss used linen in the laundry bin after dinner parties.
Biofibrous paper uses wood pulp instead of trees. It can be recycled indefinitely with minimal degradation compared to other types of paper. This type of paper has been around for centuries, yet its popularity continues to grow today thanks to its many advantages.
Unlike traditional paper made from tree fibers, biofiber paper doesn’t harm forests or contribute to deforestation. In fact, it takes less water to make biofiber paper than regular paper. Biofiber paper is a sustainable choice because it reduces demand on nonrenewable natural resources.
When properly disposed of, biofiber paper breaks down into carbon dioxide and water which return back to nature through photosynthesis.
Because it contains lignin, biofiber paper is stronger than steel. And unlike steel, it won’t rust when exposed to moisture.
It also resists tearing and breaking more effectively than conventional papers.
In addition, biofiber paper absorbs up to 30% more ink than standard paper. So if you’re printing out documents at home, consider using this eco-friendly option.
Made from renewable sources including cotton, flax, hemp, jute, sisal, straw, bamboo, and others. Cellulosic paper is often referred to as “paper without trees.” Unlike typical paper, cellulosic paper does not use any formaldehyde or chlorine bleaches. Instead, it relies on enzymes found in plants to remove impurities.
This process makes cellulosic paper an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional paper. Because it requires fewer chemicals, it produces much lower levels of harmful emissions during production.
What You Can Do Now
If you want to make sustainable choices now, start small. Choose locally grown or sustainably raised ingredients whenever possible. Avoid plastic containers wherever possible and look for recyclable options whenever possible. Opt for reusable produce bags and compostable dishware. And finally, be sure to recycle all leftover food and beverage containers.
Bamboo Utensil Packaging
Skip plastic ware and go all natural with bamboo cutting boards, bowls, mugs, spoons, forks, knives, etc. These can be found in stores or ordered online. Not only will this reduce your consumption of virgin raw materials, but studies show that owning bamboo wares reduces our exposure to toxins due to its ability to “soak” up toxic substances through its structure.
Recycle Your Food Scraps
Don’t just put them in a garbage bag any longer! There are now services which allow you to turn your leftovers into cash. For example, if you know someone who is going hungry, why not send them something they can use?
Use Less Water
We live in a world water shortage. Do everything possible to conserve it. If you do have access to tap water, filter it first. Avoid flushing things such as wipes, diapers, and tampons; instead reuse them. 9. Reusable Shopping Bag Options: When shopping, choose reusable options whenever possible. This includes canvas totes, backpacks, duffel bags, grocery sacks, lunch boxes, etc.
Buy Local Produce
Support small farmers by buying local fruits and vegetables when you’re able. Buying locally grown foods helps support family farms, creates jobs, improves health, and saves us tons of fossil fuels needed to ship food long distances.
Grow Some Vegetables Yourself
Growing your own fresh herbs and veggies provides more nutrition per square foot than store bought varieties, plus you get to control exactly what goes into your body.
Compost Leftover Foods
The next day after eating leftover meals, take those scraps out for composting. They’ll decompose much faster than throwing them away, creating nutrients for plants while reducing waste production.