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Packaging design industry needs urgent innovation

We handle food packaging multiple times a day, but what needs to urgently change in the packaging design industry?

With 18 million tonnes of food and almost 26 million tonnes of food packaging ending up in UK landfill sites annually, innovation in the food packaging design sector is eagerly awaited.

Life+ Packaging

At the recent Fruit Logistica Show, rigid plastic packaging giant, ILIP launched a new design intended to reduce food waste.

Based just outside Bologna, the company presented heat sealable punnets with active pads named Life+.

The active pads in Life+ packaging release natural substances such as flavonoids and fruit aids which will effectively control the micro flora that results in fruit rotting.

ILIP will ensure a specific gas mixture by making the Life+ packaging sealable, preventing fogging and condensation within and in turn extending shelf-life.Strawberries packaging designR&D Manager, Luigi Garvaglia states: ‘We know that a consistent part of food waste occurs during distribution and final consumption. A packaging system that reduces waste during these phases results in significant benefits.

‘On the other hand, ensuring one or two more days of shelf life helps keeping food from being thrown away if not consumed immediately at home after purchase.’

A Plastic Free Aisle

However, some argue that even more drastic measures are required to tackle the concerning levels of landfill waste as a bi-product of the food packaging design industry.

A representative of marine conservation charity, Plastic Oceans Foundation plans meet with the UK’s largest supermarket bosses in a bid to promote ‘A Plastic Free Aisle’.

Trustee of the foundation, Sian Sutherland told Sky News: ‘We want to buy food that is not wrapped or contaminated with plastic.

‘We are asking supermarkets to be part of the process. The situation with plastics is very very urgent and we have to do something now.’

Environmental Trades

Positively, the Environment Exchange’s t2e platform, which provides a transparent method of selling environmental commodities such as plastic, recently published record trades for 2016.

Trades increased by 11.4% in 2016, with 1.3 million tonnes of Packaging Recover Notes (PRNs) exchanged.

The managing director of The Environmental Exchange, Angus Macpherson states: ‘This is an excellent result.

‘We welcome the Government’s continued commitment to the PRN system, progressive recycling targets and the circular economy package.’

Edible Packaging

More extreme still, the US Department of Agriculture has learnt that a milk protein called casein can be used to generate edible packaging film.

Research conducted last year revealed that this biodegradable film is 500 times better at keeping oxygen from food and is also better than current edible packaging in that it isn’t sensitive to light.

Production of casein packaging

Researcher Laetitia Bonnaille states: ‘Everything is in smaller and smaller packaging, which is great for grabbing lunch… but then it generates so much waste.

She continues: ‘Edible packaging can be great for that.’

Interestingly, while the packaging is currently tasteless and lacks nutrients, these elements could be added. It is predicted that casein packaging will be on store shelves within three years.

The Future

In March, at Packaging Innovations 2017, continued conversation on food packaging is anticipated.

However, environmentalists are convinced that the onus will remain on individuals to minimise waste as long as the packaging design industry continues to be driven by the primary desire to make money.

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