UK – A new report published by the sustainability charity Wrap has revealed plastic packaging of fresh produce increases food waste and plastic pollution.
The study was conducted over several months and analyzed the relationship between plastic packaging and fresh food waste.
Researchers examined various factors such as the shelf life of produce, consumer behavior and the environmental repercussions of plastic waste.
The results highlighted a significant correlation between plastic packaging and the surge in fresh food waste.
According to the report, plastic packaging creates a false sense of security among consumers, increasing impulse purchases and bulk buying.
The study found that consumers overestimate the shelf life of fruits, vegetables and other fresh products when encased in plastic.
Consequently, this leads to consumers buying more than they can consume within a reasonable time frame, resulting in substantial food waste.
“While packaging is important and often carries out a critical role to protect food, we have proven that plastic packaging doesn’t necessarily prolong the life of uncut fresh produce,” noted Marcus Gover, Wrap’s CEO,
“It can increase food waste in this case. We have shown the massive potential to save good food from being thrown away by removing date labels.”
The research team discovered that plastic packaging hampers the natural ripening process and accelerates food spoilage.
The tight seal created by plastic containers traps moisture and restricts airflow, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
This accelerates the decomposition process and shortens the shelf life of fresh produce, leading to higher levels of discarded food.
Call for sustainable alternatives
The study’s findings underscore the pressing need for sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging and increased consumer awareness to address the escalating issue of fresh food waste.
Plastic, with its durable and flexible properties, has long been the go-to material for packaging due to its low cost and convenience. However, the environmental consequences of plastic waste have become increasingly apparent.
Experts argue that transitioning to sustainable packaging materials such as biodegradable or compostable alternatives, could significantly reduce the environmental impact of plastic packaging.
These materials offer similar protective qualities while also ensuring eco-friendlier end-of-life disposal.
The study encourages manufacturers and retailers to explore and invest in sustainable packaging options to mitigate the negative effects of plastic on food waste and the environment.
In addition to the need for sustainable packaging, consumer awareness and education play a vital role in combating the issue.
The study highlights the importance of informing and educating consumers about the limitations and risks associated with plastic packaging.
By providing accurate information regarding the shelf life of products and the optimal storage conditions, consumers can make more informed decisions when purchasing and storing fresh food items.
Food’s climate impact
Food waste across the globe is significant, with more than a third of all edible food not making it to market; estimates put the global annual total at about 1.4 billion tons of food waste. It’s a leading contributor to climate change.
In the U.K., Britons toss nearly half a million tonnes of fresh vegetables and a quarter of a million tons of fresh fruit each year.
The U.S. is the world’s leading producer of food waste, producing more than 40 million tonnes of it every year, or about 220 pounds per person per year. Food is the largest category of landfill mass, making up 22 percent of municipal solid waste.
Plastic is also a big problem for the planet. More than 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year—a number recent research says is already too much for the planet, even if we stop producing new plastic immediately.
Fifty percent of new plastic is single-use only, and an estimated eight million tons of plastic enter waterways and oceans every year.
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