The Facts on Food Packaging Waste
one-Time Use Packaging
While it’s true that strictly speaking food waste refers to wasted food, we have to consider the impact of all the excessive packaging that so much of our food comes in.
Plastic waste from the food industry includes straws, bottles, food wrappers, and shopping bags – all of which are things we can cut down on by shopping with reusable shopping bags, or choosing establishments with greener practices like paper straws, or allowing customers to use travel mugs for coffee and water. These kinds of consumer behaviours send a message to the food industry that we want more sustainable practices in place.
40% of plastic produced is for packaging. Packaging that is used just once and then discarded. So much of this one-time-use packaging has greener alternatives.
In fact, it’s easy to argue that plastic food packaging is literally unnecessary: nearly half of all plastic ever manufactured has been made since the year 2000.
Positive Notes from Our Province …
On the bright side, local organizations and communities are taking some great steps to reduce plastic food packaging waste in Newfoundland & Labrador.
Nain was the first community in the province to ban plastic bags, back in 2009. Prior to the ban, the community (with a population of 1,200) found that they were going through more than 100,000 plastic shopping bags each year.
Since then, Rigolet, Hopedale, Makkovik, Postville, Cartwright, and retailers on Fogo Island have followed suit. And more communities are looking into implementing a ban themselves.
In November of 2018, the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation (NLC), one of the largest retailers in the province, also took an important and environmentally conscious step forward. They stopped using single-use plastic bags at all 29 corporate liquor stores across the province. Once pre-existing inventory of their plastic bags is gone, no NLC outlet in the province will use them.
Before this decision, the NLC was giving out almost 5 million plastic bags a year - at a cost of $180 000.
Industrial Food Waste
Beyond food packaging waste, we can also consider the waste that is created in the harvesting and production of our food. While these are industry issues, being knowledgeable about the waste created at this stage in our food chain can help us be more conscious consumers.
86% of food waste takes place within the food industry with only 14% taking place in our homes. Clearly, the food industry needs to find more innovative solutions to tackling food waste.
Recycling Food Packaging
Did you know that all metal cans, including aluminum, tin, and steel, are infinitely recyclable? These cans can be recycled indefinitely with no loss of quality. Also, unlike glass or plastic, our natural resource supply of metal is finite, so that’s an extra reason to make sure metal cans make it into the recycling rather than the garbage!
Municipalities differ in what products they accept in their local recycling programs, so if you’re unsure about the rules around your local recycling pick-up check out your town’s website or contact your town hall.
Making Plastic Wrap Alternative Using Fabric and Beeswax
Plastic wrap is a product that can be very useful in the kitchen, but as a one-time-use plastic product, that takes a very long time to breaks down, plastic is horrible for the environment.
Luckily there are practical alternatives to using plastic wrap, like reusable containers with lids.
If you’re looking for a product that performs the same function as plastic wrap, beeswax coated fabric sheets are a great alternative. Download instructions here.
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