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Is food packaging causing environment crisis?

Most packaging is designed to be single use and is not recycled. Whether we buy food from a supermarket, a grocery store, a restaurant, an online meal delivery service, they are artificially encased. Although food packaging provides a way to make food safe, reliable, shelf-stable and clean, they are made from a variety of manufactured and synthetic materials such as paper, ceramics, wax, wood, paper, metal, paperboard, glass and plastics.

Packaging in the production process not only will consume limited natural resources, it will produce all kinds of waste which threaten human health. Packaging industry on the consumption of natural resources mainly in the preparation of packaging raw materials process. For example, paper wood packaging products raw materials are wood, paper and other synthetic materials. Forest resources are consumed in the preparation of the raw materials required for these packaging products. Unrestricted consumption of forest resources will undermine its growth balance, so that the ecological environment facing soil erosion, desertification, water shortages and a series of ecological problems.

In glass manufacturing, feedstock material is melted by burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas, light and heavy fuel oils and liquefied petroleum gas. Air emissions that result from combustion of fuels include greenhouse gases, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides. Emissions that result from vaporization and recrystallization of feedstock material include fine particulates that can contain heavy metals such as arsenic and lead.

With the consumer demand for microwave food, snack foods and frozen food and other convenience food is increasing, the demand for packaging is huge. Current food production and consumption practices generate a lot of packaging, and new forms of packaging are constantly being developed. The packaging of food places the largest demand on the packaging industry, with approximately two thirds of all the material produced going to package food. Some countries, like Japan, have high demand on food packaging. As Japan’s obsession with hygiene combined with its pride in customer service, dictates that everything is meticulously wrapped, rewrapped and bagged in multiple layers of plastic.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food and food packaging materials make up almost half of all municipal solid waste. The direct or indirect impacts of packaging on the environment include soil degradation, water pollution, and the sharp reduction of scarce resources such as forests, solid waste pollution and toxic chemical pollution. It seriously affected the sustainable development of resources and environment.

There are some ways we can help the environment. Firstly, buy and eat fewer packaged foods so that can reduce the packaging production from the source of environmental pollution. Secondly, energy-saving low consumption, pollution prevention, renewable and recyclable use of food packaging materials is the development direction. Thirdly, make your own food from scratch because whole foods require less packaging. Moreover, reducing your frequency on dining out / ordering delivery / purchase takeaway food can also help.

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