There is no doubt that packaging is useful. The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO of UN) has estimated that one third of all food production for human consumption each year is either lost or wasted. One conclusion reached was that an increase in simple but effective packaging could significantly reduce the level of waste, primarily in the supply chain between the growers and consumers.
This applies primarily to the developing countries as the industrialized countries already use much more packaging than suggested and the waste rather than being in the supply chain is through consumers not using the food before it spoils. The amount wasted per capita by those in the industrialized nations is 10 times the amount wasted by those in the developing countries despite the more extensive use of packaging in the industrialized countries. The UN has announced a target of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030 and to help has produced a “Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard” (http://flwprotocol.org/) to enable reproducible and credible measurements.
Fees, fees and one polymer only
In the UK, goals have been set to minimize the amount of waste going to landfill. It also is a stated goal to “eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.” The packaging industry is under attack because of overpackaging, littering and a lack of recycling. There have been some well-publicized issues. A 5-pence levy was placed on single-use carrier bags in stores that employed more than 250 employees, which resulted in a reduction of 9 billion bags being used. It is now being proposed that a fee be introduced on takeaway coffee cups, following it being determined that 99% of the cups end up in landfills. One city has an initiative where drinking straws are not automatically given out when purchasing drinks but have to be requested.
Some supermarkets are highlighting they have a plastic-free aisle. Marks & Spencer, one of the more proactive supermarkets, has announced a “One Polymer Roadmap,” where the aim is that by 2025 100% of the polymer packaging they use will be capable of being easily recycled. They believe that to achieve this they will not be able to use mixed-polymer packaging. They will still use laminates, but they will be of a common polymer with each layer optimized with different performance attributes.