Food packaging: A life saver invention or not ?

by pascaleworld on February 24, 2017 - 10:24am

Since my previous post, I realized I was concerned about the food packaging in our world. I have learned a lot about the chemicals inside the food wrappers and how they were associated with cancer and other important health issues. It leads me to wonder how food packaging was dealt with around the world and what do we think about it in Québec as well. Does food packaging really prevent waste? It might contain chemicals, but I want to research more about the real purpose of food packaging. 


Food packaging is useful in itself to protect our food and help us keep it longer than it can, said Joe Schwarz in his article published the 18th November of 2016 in The Montreal Gazette. The article seems really reliable as it is from a newspaper that has been around for 237 years and has won multiple awards such as Newspaper Canada Great Ideas Competition in 2012. It prevents outside contaminants to infect the food while keeping the nutritional benefits by keeping the oxygen outside the product. Being able to keep food longer prevents people from wasting food at home and in restaurants. Joe Schwarz also states a third of the world food produced ends up being wasted. It is sad since it could have feed almost 3 billion people, but it is often lost during production and transportation, especially if it is not refrigerated. The production and transportation of the wasted food also pollute the environment which is another waste. It seems that using food packaging can avoid some important wastes thrown by humanity regularly. 


It may be able to keep our food for a longer time, but it might not be good for the environment. In the same article, we learn that plastic is mainly thrown away in our oceans and lands, while only half of 28% of the plastic collected ends up being recycled. This is only a tiny proportion for the amount of plastic we have and we have to consider that food packaging is made of plastic. Still in the same article, we learn that most of the plastic cannot be recycled, only a few types like polyester will be used again. As I have stated previously, there is a lot of transportation for food that ends up being wasted, which is why food packaging can help in this area, but there is another issue: the transportation of food packaging itself and plastic. There is as much as transportation needed for the plastic as for food, so in the end, food packaging might actually pollute the environment even more. 


While the transportation and environment has been an issue, there is also the over-packaging. As seen in Kylie Knott's article from the South China Morning Post' newspaper, groceries were selling individually packed strawberries. The article was published the 8th of February, just a few days before Valentine's Day, in a newspaper that has been founded in 1903 and many other newspaper have also reported the same thing such as Time newspaper or Evening Standard. The article reports individually wrapped strawberries imported for Japan. They were considered as high quality fruit and limited premium choice. One strawberry would be in straw nest with plastic covering the paper box and styrofoam. This many food packaging wasn’t necessary for a single strawberry. There is not only waste of food at this point, but we are wasting food packaging, which will probably end up in the trash and not be recycled at all.


Considering how much food packaging has become important for us these last years, it seems impossible to imagine living without them. One shop found the way to do it. In her article “This zero-waste grocery store has no packaging, plastic or big-name brands” published the 22th February in 2016 on Plaid Zebra, Khadija Khan she shows us a new kind of grocery in Germany, a grocery where there is no food packaging. It allows people to buy what they want and the quantity they want so they do not waste food by buying too much. There is absolutely no bags in the shop, you must bring your own. Original Unverpackt, the name of the grocery, also promotes local and organic products. The goal of the Original Unverpackt is to reduce the waste created by food packaging since there is a lot in Germany. There can be up to 16 million tonnes of food packaging waste just in Germany, while 12 million of food waste is accumulated annually, costing us 19 billion of dollars. All this waste ends up on the landfills and contribute in polluting the environment as well. It is even more shocking when you think that 75% of this waste could have been avoided with more efficient ways. Plaid Zebra seems to be a reliable source, the website doesn’t pay there writers, it is free for all. I believe it encourages people to write more reliable facts, as they don’t have the pressure to have to satisfy the boss or give alternate facts to create a more alarming situation. Links to the study are also linked to an organization called Wrap which promotes re-using and recycling.


From what I’ve read, it seems that food packaging is more harmful to the environment than it helps by protecting our food. Germany has also showed us an efficient way to actually solve the issue. In the article from Quebec, it shows a concern for both how food packaging can help and be a nuisance to our environment and food. While the article about Hong-Kong shows how people in this country are less concerned by the impact, which is shocking. Germany’ article shows the example with this no-packaging grocery, because of their issues. Depending on where the issue is, the approach will be different. Hopefully, Hong-Kong and Quebec will learn from them!


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I believe that this issue is a very important one in todays society and actions should be taken to prevent this from getting even worse. This post describes the issues attributed to this topic very nicely and very organized backed up by great sources. The issues brought up are that the plastic wrapping is big pollutant of plastic in the world and food waste is the reason behind this. Another issue is that the chemicals used in the wrappers may not be the best for the health of the consumers of the product. A way to approach this issue is to get away from plastic wrapping and convert to an all natural wrappers. This would decrease the amount of plastic waste and even if the new wrappers are thrown out, it would most likely be biodegradable and would decompose over time. I believe that this is the only way to decrease the amount of chemicals in food and to help reduce plastic pollution in the world.

About the author

I am a student at College Champlain, Saint-Lambert. I am currently in the psychology program and intend to continue my studies in University.