2022-05-05Can the Food Industry Turn Its Back on Plastic Packaging Materials?
The food industry is facing one of the biggest challenges in its history. The European Union is advocating new regulations for product packaging, and their introduction will have a great impact on Hungarian businesses as well. How can plastics be used in a more sustainable way in the food industry or even in other areas of life? In its article, Thege-Plastic Kft. tries to provide insight into the delicate situation surrounding plastics, from nanomaterials to extruders.
Food packaging materials are usually plastic. In addition to their advantageous properties, their main disadvantage is that they are unable to prevent gases such as oxygen from penetrating through the packaging and thus from coming into contact with the food. However, packaging has a special role in preserving the quality of food and in creating the highest possible level of food safety. The situation is only made more complex by the fact that several directives on packaging waste and single-use plastics have been published recently.
Nanomaterials are coming in the plastics industry
The European Union has been working to strengthen sustainability in the food industry for quite some time. One way to do this is to encourage attempts to create more sustainable materials in the food packaging industry, and to support innovative research. As can be read in the article by the European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials, the so-called nanomaterials, titanium nitride or titanium dioxide, can improve the properties of the material, for example making it lighter and stronger, but they can also have antimicrobial properties that help keep food fresh. and remain free of harmful bacteria even during long storage periods. That is why today the most important areas of application of nanomaterials in the food sector are the development of our food packaging.
Cellulose can play an important role in the new generation of packaging materials
Another recent research by the EU organization focuses on cellulose, as one of the most abundant materials found in the environment, which can be obtained from plants and trees. The researchers developed biodegradable composite membranes from cellulose nanoparticles. And research suggests that these bio-based films can prevent water from penetrating the packaging, protect fresh food from harmful bacteria and potentially increase product shelf life. This means that biofilms can be used in the food packaging industry to reduce food waste and food-related illnesses. But scientists are also developing "smart" packaging that contains nano-sized sensors to monitor the condition of food.
The new source of danger: microplastics
There are countless news stories about microplastics in the press, most recently there were articles and foreign studies due to this type of contamination caused by the use of polypropylene baby bottles. Experts consider the tests related to mineral water PET bottles to be at least as important. As is well known, the mineral water was initially filled in bottles made of PVC, which was a hit at the time, but it soon turned out that it was not chemically resistant enough. Many people have wondered whether it would not be better to use other, more resistant plastic. It was then that the idea of the PET bottle was born as a possible alternative, but according to some studies, microplastics are present in mineral water, regardless of whether we are talking about single-use or disposable PET bottles.
This is the curse of single-use plastics
Not a single study examining Hungarian drinking water promises good news when it claims that microplastics live with us. Some research goes even further and says that any activity involving plastics, such as unscrewing a cap or opening a bag, releases microparticles
Even the biggest polluters are fighting plastic
The European Union's efforts concerning product packaging have also been joined by the world's leading food industry, nutrition and healthy lifestyle companies. Many of them have undertaken to take more and more steps in order to make 100 percent of their packaging recyclable or reusable, and to reduce their use of plastic in the coming years and decades, thereby accelerating the development of innovative sustainable packaging solutions. Nestlé announced in September 2020 that its new steps include a $30 million investment to increase the proportion of recycled plastics in the food industry in the United States and the introduction of a recyclable paper packaging in France. In accordance with the commitments, the brand also manufactures products with new types of packaging in Hungary, for example, the NESQUIK All Natural cocoa powder produced in the Szerencs factory is sold in recyclable paper packaging to the European markets. Where paper packaging is not possible, such as in the case of popular coffee capsules, they try to produce the product from as much recycled aluminum as possible, which is also an important step towards a circular economy.
Responsible use of plastic can be a basic requirement
Creating a waste-free future is therefore at the heart of the activities of companies with a responsible mindset. And the effort pays off companies that are able to switch to new packaging solutions can also do well from a marketing point of view, it is worthwhile to perceive the changes as a kind of opportunity. The already mentioned brand, Nestlé's unit in the Philippines, has already reached the goal of being completely plastic neutral. This means that plastic equivalent to the amount of plastic in the sold products was collected and processed, thereby preventing it from ending up in landfills or, in the worst case, in our living waters. The news about this made its way into the world press, influencing consumers' perceptions of the brand in a positive direction. The bacterial cocktail of the Hungarian startup Poliloop, which breaks down plastic waste into natural material, should also be noted here. According to the news, the discovery was also noticed by a giant company in the food industry.
We would like to inform the companies that we do not ask for unnecessary plastics!
Unfortunately, it seems that the regulation of companies is left to the customers instead of our legislators, although more and more people are showing with their wallets and even letters that they expect sustainable packaging. At the same time, it is still necessary to put things in order in the minds of customers, to encourage new, more responsible behavior, since selective collection is just as important as processing. Several surveys have confirmed that the majority of consumers have heard that the regulations regarding product packaging may change in the near future, and most of them support them, but still few invest energy in going shopping with, for example, a previously used plastic bag, and not a new one in every shape. to take So education is important. The launch of various sustainable packaging and training programs within companies, education via a digital platform, and the launch of various incentive campaigns outside of companies can do a lot towards the transition to alternative packaging materials.
Sustainability is already the main driving force of the plastics industry
As reported by Thege-Plastic Kft. at the world's largest plastic industry exhibition, the 2019 K-show in Düsseldorf saw manufacturers bidding against each other to curb environmental damage. The theme of the exhibition was the circular economy, which the European Union regards as the key to competitiveness. Unsurprisingly, most of the plastic industry manufacturers presented machines that, in addition to narrow recycling, show serious progress in the area of carbon dioxide emissions and energy saving, as well as in connection with material consumption.
The extruder for sale awaits a challenge
Our company experiences firsthand how the latest machines, such as Jwell extruders or the new generation of ChenHsong injection molding machines, meet the strictest environmental protection requirements. The machines, which consume much less than their predecessors, can use recycled plastic in a quality that was previously unimaginable, and they can easily use newer and newer materials. Thege-Plastic Kft. is committed to making the Hungarian plastic industry and plastic consumption sustainable, trying to ensure a sane tone in the discourse, as one should not fall to the other side of the horse while reducing single-use plastics. It is not difficult to see that wasteful light switches and life-threatening car parts made of materials other than plastic, but eliminating reusable plastic bags would be a huge mistake, as several studies have proven.