Packing food sensibly: The balance between protection and environmental protection

Packaging has a variety of functions. They provide information about products, can create incentives to buy, arouse emotions, or improve the use of a product. But above all, they protect the products. But the question is: Does the ultimate sustainable packaging exist? Let's take a closer look at that now.


Packaging and environmental impact: A closer look at the numbers
Interestingly, for food, packaging accounts for an average of only 3.2 % of a product's CO2 emissions, while a whopping 96.8 % is attributable to food production and transport. This illustrates that while packaging is one factor when considering sustainability, it is not the only one. Extending shelf life and protecting food should therefore always be a top priority.


Packaging materials in focus: plastic, paper and glass
The question of which packaging is the most sustainable is complex This is also shown by a study from NABU with the result that there is not THE one sustainable packaging. The choice of packaging material always depends on the type of content.

According to the study, thin paper packaging is the most environmentally friendly option for dry foods like pasta or granola. It is important that this is made of 100 % paper and not coated with plastic. For moist foods like red cabbage or mustard, plastic packaging is usually the most sustainable choice, as it is made of mono-material and protects the demanding goods best. Glass packaging, especially reusable, can be the most ecological choice for yoghurt, for example.

It is therefore important to note that each packaging material has its advantages and disadvantages and can be the most ecological choice depending on factors such as transport weight, production emissions and recyclability but also product protection.

In addition, the location of use and the existing waste treatment structures influence the overall balance. For example, the recycling infrastructure in Germany functions well, which is why value should be placed on recyclable materials here. In other countries, there is often no functioning waste management or recycling, which is why biodegradability can be an important factor there.


My conclusion
When choosing a suitable packaging, some essential aspects should be taken into account. Above all, it is of great importance to use packaging only specifically where the protection of the product is indispensable. Excessive packaging should always be avoided and materials used sparingly in order to conserve valuable resources. The use of mono-materials is important to improve recyclability and thus make the entire waste cycle more efficient. Another key aspect is responsible disposal after the use of the product as well as targeted recycling, as these elements are fundamental to realising a functioning circular economy. If these guidelines are taken into account, an important contribution can be made to more sustainable packaging practices.

At SPIES, we are of course also dedicated to this topic and have formulated our most important 5 points for packaging design.


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