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The media is flooded with masses of news articles and messages claiming that Plastic Food and Drink Packaging are causing the destruction of our ecosystem and planet.
Plastic is a huge contributor for food and drink packaging across the globe. It hygienically protects and preserves perishable food for longer than other packaging materials. Meaning it helps to reduce waste and helps to reduce the use of preservatives in food whilst maintaining the taste and nutritional value of the food.
Globally, around 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year. The use of plastic food packaging is a commonly used solution to combat this extremely excessive global food waste. Although Plastic does receive a lot of bad press as a material, it does improve food shelf life significantly as opposed to other single use materials.
When discussing Plastic Packaging used for food and drink items, we need to focus on the disposal of the material/product and people’s attitude towards waste disposal rather than the material itself. Across the globe you can see litter and fly tipping wherever you go. In some cases, the waste is removed but this doesn’t stop the behaviour of the people who litter in the first place. There are numerous ways human beings are destroying the planet and our throwaway culture should be at the top of the list.
Our oceans have been continuously littered over a number of years which is so damaging to the wildlife and habitats of the animals that live within it. We must ask ourselves, how did all of that waste initially get there? The media concentrate their focus on the plastic as a material but what we need to do is focus on are the actual people who are continuously contributing to the disposal of this waste into our beautiful oceans. If we ceased incorrectly disposing all man-made materials, this would definitely improve the state of the environment around us. However this isn’t a headline which sells. As a country and across the world, we need to have stricter waste management procedures and strategies.
There is definitely a requirement perhaps now more than ever, for a huge cultural and lifestyle shift in human’s behaviour specifically in relation to waste disposal. If we want to make a change, we have to change how we live our lives. We need to keep our habitats clean and the attitude of a majority of the global population, do not seem to concur with this statement. We must remember that we are merely participants in nature, it was here before us and it needs to remain after us.
What is Watershed Packaging doing to become environmentally sustainable?
As a business operating in the Print industry, Watershed Packaging is committed to being a sustainable and environmentally friendly business. We have made vast changes to the ways in which we produce packaging materials for our customers. We want to ensure we are as environmentally sustainable as possible, and that we have the environmental credentials to match.
We are continuously innovating to find materials with a low carbon footprint that can still easily enter a closed-loop recycling stream making us more efficient than a lot of other forms of Packaging Suppliers within the Print Industry.
In 2018 we were awarded a Zero Labels 2 Landfill certification and a Zero Foil 2 Landfill certification. This Scheme is run by Prismm Environmental Limited and is sponsored by the British Printing Industry Federation (BPIF). It guarantees that absolutely none of our Label waste or Foil/ Metalized Polyester waste will be taken to landfill. This year we have kept this certification which shows we care about the sustainable aspects of our business.
Label Printing companies similar to ourselves that have already signed up to this scheme have diverted 5,925 tonnes of Label waste from landfill in 2015. The aluminium Die Cut Lids that we produce are also all fully recyclable.
Sustainability is at the forefront of our design of our end of line Packaging Machinery, with energy saving and safety a priority and passion. All our machines are built with non-toxic components.
Our Building & Site Environmental Measures
Our state of the art headquarters in Leeds is also extremely energy efficient. We use primarily LED lighting where possible and in our office spaces we recycle paper printer waste and all our printer ink cartridges. We also encourage our staff to bring in their own ink cartridge waste from home to recycle at work.
Throughout our building we recycle air to ensure our employees are receiving a high quality air supply despite being indoors.
We hold surface water in a huge underground tank to prevent our nearby river from flooding.
All oil leakage from cars and transport vehicles is collated into a central separator underneath our site which prevents it from reaching fresh water.
We have also taken part in CycleScheme whereby our employees are given funding towards a bicycle of their choice, to encourage an active method of transport to get to and from work, to not only reduce car emissions but also to promote fitness and wellbeing.
Plastic Food & Drink Packaging
Reading through various news articles on Sky News and BBC News, they infer it is a combination of the Media and the Government who have influenced consumers to believe ceasing the use of Plastic Food and Drinks Packaging is going to stop the world from creating excess waste and polluting our oceans. This has put supermarkets and food and drink producers under great scrutiny to find alternative materials to use for their packaging.
Over time the world could slowly phase out the use of Plastic Food & Drinks Packaging, but the reality is the excess waste will still remain and the alternatives that are being offered, are all majority single use materials. This factor is definitely not well known when plastic is being victimised within the media.
The reality is that Plastic can be found in nearly every room of your home, your workplace, your clothes and your car. A reason why Plastic is so popular within the consumer market is due to the fact the material can be moulded in various ways to be suitable for a variety of uses.
Using glass and paper as substitute material alternatives are portrayed within the media as more ‘Eco-Friendly’ ways of living. However what the media are not telling you is the damage the use of these materials are causing for the environment around us.
Did you know the use of paper bags, wood and glass actually causes more carbon emissions than the use of plastic. They are all also very difficult materials to reuse as they are single use materials. Once your paper bag from the supermarket has become wet, it breaks, and then it ends up as waste because it is not fit for purpose. Inevitably, we could end up with 10x more global paper waste as a result of this or have a much higher demand for more paper, resulting in more trees being destroyed to support consumerism demands. Glass is much heavier to transport than Plastic, causing a larger carbon footprint and thus more pollution. Alternative single use materials for plastic bags use more energy, create more air pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions whilst being created compared to the creation of plastic bags and they are also very damaging for our oceans. So in reality we are swapping one single use material, for another, not creating a solution but creating more problems for our environment.
A solution that is often overshadowed is that the world needs to create a less environmentally damaging way of destroying waste. Within the Packaging and Food and Drink industry, changes have been made to create more sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging. This is brilliant in terms of Packaging Innovation but could this now lead us to more food waste and thus not actually solving the problem of excess waste throughout the world?
The reality is that food/drink sealed in plastic packaging has an extended shelf life. When Cucumbers for example are wrapped in plastic packaging, they stay fresh for 14 days longer, reducing food waste. If food was packed using materials other than plastics, the related energy consumption would double and greenhouse gas emissions would nearly triple. For more factual information regarding the use of plastics with food packaging, please visit PlasticsEurope website.