For many, the industry of packaging and shrink wrapping is the root of all evil, destroying the planet one film at a time and furthering the effects of global warming. This is particularly relevant in the time after Christmas, as mountains of paper, card and packaging all goes under the same bracket of unnecessary waste. However, despite these negative preconceptions, there are ways in which packaging with an efficient packaging machine can please the planet as much as it can manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Despite shrink film materials being slightly less environmentally-friendly than some, the possibilities it provides in terms of protection, preservation and security are endless. For example, one of the biggest contributors to unethical practice is food waste, whereby consumers throw away 7.3 million tonnes of food and drink a year, with the majority of it being avoidable. In this sense, using a shrink wrap machine to extend the life of consumables is actually a green way to avoid waste.
Wrapping for the greater good
The plastic sheet used to protect cucumbers is a highly debated and controversial topic within the industry, with some questioning the need for protective film when vegetables such as potatoes and peppers often go without. This is a point well made, until you actually explore why the cucumber is wrapped in the first place. Research proves that a correctly wrapped cucumber lasts more than three times as long as an unwrapped one and will also lose just 1.5% of its weight via evaporation compared to 3.5% lost in just three days for an exposed cucumber. Therefore, products with a longer-life contribute to a reduction in deliveries and all their energy costs as a result, as well as less household waste. Not only is food waste at the forefront of current green-living debates, but it also lets off methane when ending up in landfill, thus producing greenhouse gases.
That’s a wrap
To further the previously made point, the benefits of securing and protecting foods could arguably outweigh the consequent effects the film has on the environment. At the heart of food manufacturing and packaging at the moment is the issue of so-called ‘wonky’ vegetables, that do not meet supermarket guidelines in terms of weight, shape or colour and are subsequently wasted, despite most likely tasting exactly the same. Asda’s ‘Beautiful on the inside’ range of wonky veg boxes released early last year is a step towards lessening the impact of large-scale food waste, but the issue remains paramount in contemporary times. Correctly shrink-wrapping consumables that are vulnerable to discolouration, changing shape or spoiling when exposed to certain packing and delivering methods could allow the food to actually make it to the shelves, limiting the chances of waste. In this sense, the price paid by the environment in order to shrink wrap the product is a small price to pay in comparison to the detrimental effects of food waste. This is particularly predominant in a world so divided that some of us have so much food, we reject carrots that are too curved and others are experiencing starvation.
Making your foods last longer
Although once you have purchased your finely wrapped produce, the responsibility to reduce food waste is all yours. Here are five top tips that can reduce food wastage in your household:
Don’t have eyes bigger than your belly
Thanks to the ever-expanding restaurant culture, plates heaped with food have become somewhat of a social norm and it simply isn’t necessary. Fight against normal conventions and embrace smaller when cooking for your friends and family. This is also ideal if you are in the midst of a ‘new year, new you’ healthy eating January.
Expiration and sell-by dates are NOT rules
Remember these guidelines depict food quality, not safety. Use your common sense, and judge products based on how they look, smell and feel. For example, a softer than usual past its sell-by date avocado is unlikely to cause harm, whereas solidified milk that comes with a sour stench should probably be avoided.
Save leftovers and actually eat them
Because who doesn’t love Tupperware? If you do cook a little too much or even if you want a quick and easy lunch for the following day, incorporating leftovers into your lifestyle can save a load of unnecessary waste. Label your tubs and keep track of when you can grab a leftover to save time and money on the go.
A lot of the time, food wastage in the household occurs because you forgot you had a certain item until it was too late. We’ve all been there and quite frankly there’s little worse than finding a mouldy potato at the back of the cupboard. Keeping tidy and organised food storage units is not only one of the most basic hygiene practices but also reminds you of what you have and when to use it.
Keep track of what you chuck
Not only does keeping a record of waste evoke guilt that makes it less likely to happen in the future, but it also lets you see which foods are particularly vulnerable to being wasted in our household and be more mindful of how much you are buying and when in the future.
So before you disregard the wrapped cucumber on account of being mindful of your carbon footprint, think about when you plan on eating the cucumber. It can be more environmentally-friendly to buy a correctly wrapped and protected vegetable if a longer shelf life is important to your versatile eating habits.