Global warming is having a detrimental effect on our planet – the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and there are obvious increases in temperatures all across the globe. Scientists warn that if we don’t make changes now, then there will be devastating environmental consequences on our planet. Below, we are going to look at the effects that plastic is having on our environment, and how First Food Machinery are using vacuum packaging to help minimise these effects and fight climate change.

What effect is plastic having on the environment?

From water bottles, to shopping bags, to drinking straws – It’s hard to imagine a world without plastic. This cheap, strong, durable material has proved so useful to humans that we’ve produced an estimated 8.3 billion metric tonnes of the material since the 1950’s – (according to information on AAAS.) However, in recent years we have realised that plastic is having a detrimental effect on the environment, which includes:

  • Plastic causes ocean pollution – Only a small percentage of plastics can be recycled and the majority is thrown away. There is currently more than eight million tonnes of plastic being dumped in our oceans every year!
  • Plastic is harmful to wildlife – Many animals are injured and killed from ingesting plastic or becoming entangled in it.
  • Plastic cannot biodegrade – It is thought that most plastic products will take more than 400 years to degrade (if they ever do fully). This means that the volume of plastic in our environment is growing year on year.
  • Plastic products are mostly single-use – An estimated 50% of plastics are used once and then thrown away.
  • Plastic affects human health – Toxins and fragments released during decomposition pollute our soil and water. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to cancers, birth defects, and other ailments.

What is vacuum packaging?

Plastics biggest market is packaging – it is used to protect a product so it can be transported, stored and displayed effectively, before it is taken home by the consumer where the product can be put to use. This applies to everything from televisions to steaks. It’s obvious that the use of some plastic packaging is unavoidable, but there are ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste, especially when it comes to food products. Vacuum packaging is an advanced, more efficient form of packing that involves placing items in a plastic film package, removing air from inside, and sealing the package. This increases the useable shelf life of products by providing a protective ‘skin’ that helps keep oxygen away from food.

How vacuum packaging can reduce food wastage

According to The Economist a third of all food produced – around 1.3bn tonnes – is thrown away before it is eaten. All that waste has huge negative consequences for the environment, resulting not only in increased greenhouse gas emissions, but also wasted water, energy, and other resources that go into food production. Packaging maintains the benefits of food processing after the process is complete, enabling food to travel safely for long distances, and still be fresh and safe at the time of consumption. The role of packaging in the food industry clearly has the potential to minimise food waste and maximise efficiency.

One of the main benefits of vacuum packaging is that is allows manufacturers to safely extend the shelf life of food products, particularly meat and diary. Experts at EPPM explain how – A vacuum packed steak has a lifespan of 16 days, while a normal tray/lid gives it just 6 days shelf life.”

A ton of food waste produces far more carbon dioxide than a ton of packaging and better packaging ensures that precious resources are used more efficiently. Evidently, vacuum packaging also contributes to carbon emissions, but crucially it reduces the waste of the food product produced thus both ensuring that less of the product be wasted and therefore produced in future.

Final thought

In order to halt the irreversible damage caused by climate change, it’s important that everyone takes action to reduce their own carbon footprint. Lifestyle changes make a big difference and using less plastic is a great way to reduce harmful emissions. While packaging is essential to maintain the quality and safety of food products, smart use of plastic packaging such as vacuum packaging, can significantly reduce the environmental damage caused by both food and plastic wastage.