Food packaging is very important for several reasons. First of all, the package is responsible for providing a reliable barrier between the product and potential contaminants from the external environment. The package must ensure hygiene and reduce the risk of product contamination as much as possible. Specific types of packaging can extend the shelf life of certain foods, while also allowing safe and efficient transportation. Moreover, the package must also provide customers useful information about the product, instructions, expiry date, recycling instructions etc. All food packages must meet specific legal requirements.
There are many different types of food packaging materials, but the most common are paper, plastic, glass, fiberboard, steel and aluminum, each with its own properties, advantages and disadvantages.
Paper is among the most commonly used packaging materials, especially corrugated cardboard preferred for transport packaging. It is a very environmental friendly material, biodegradable and easy to recycle. With a recycling rate of about 50%, paper has numerous uses and advantages.
Glass is definitely the most common form of packaging waste. However, glass containers are frequently replaced with plastic ones, because unlike glass, plastic is resistant to impact, it is lightweight and more practical. But glass is still a very widely used packaging material, that can be easily reused or recycled.
Another commonly used material for packaging is aluminum, used especially for cans, laminates and foils. Aluminum is a valuable scrap metal, and it can also be easily recycled. Think of it this way: with the same energy it would take to manufacture a single aluminum can, you can make 20 recycled cans. That's some economy!
Steel is commonly used for food packaging, as well as beverage, paint or aerosols. It is a durable and reliable material, and it is also recyclable. In fact, significant energy savings and resource saving can be achieved through steel recycling.
Plastic is the material that seems to be taking over, step-by-step, all industries. Due to its many advantages, plastic often provides better alternatives to other packaging materials, and it is used for seemingly endless applications. There are several different types of plastic, providing sturdy and reliable products, with a high impact resistance. It is also very practical and versatile, lightweight and very cost-effective. It can be recycled, but the level of recyclability depends on the type of plastic.
The food packaging industry is constantly growing and developing, with ever-increasing demands all across the world. It is a $100 billion industry, registering a 10-15% growth each year. And when you buy food, don't think that you pay just for the actual food, as much as 50% of the total cost can be its packaging. Also, the more food packaging is produced, the more rubbish and waste is produced, and consequently all financial and environmental costs increase.