In this exclusive podcast, Mondi head of product sustainability, flexible packaging and engineered materials Graeme Smith discussed the trends in food packaging and the pros and cons of plastic and paper as packaging materials
“We get a lot of questions at the moment about that transition away from plastic to a fibre-based solution,” Smith explained. “We all know that plastic plays its part and the aspect of the barriers it can provide and help extend the shelf life of food are sometimes essential. But we do get that question a lot – how do we reduce our reliance on plastic materials?
Food safety prime
“That aspect of making sure food safety is prime in all our thoughts is the most significant question we get, along with that trend and transition [to paper packaging]. We still need to make sure we still have the protection of the product that’s been packaged in the foremost of our minds.”
The environmental impact of materials also played a key part in discussing food packaging. However, Smith argued that the potential for increased food waste by switching from plastic to paper packaging could outweigh the carbon footprint that the packaging is likely to have.
“An unintended consequence of moving from plastic to paper, that aspect of increasing food loss is something we need to be aware of,” he continued. “And we need to make sure we educate our brands and retailers to make sure any changes they do make are with that in mind and we protect that material being transported.”
Design plastic better
Smith went on to discuss the need for plastic and the way it protects food products – and how it engages with a consumer – but called for it to be designed better.
“It [plastic] will always be around, but I think everybody appreciates now that we need to be more respectful of its end of life, how we can engage and how we can use the recyclate at the end of it,” he added.
“I think that we could all do more. I think that aspect of sitting back on your laurels and saying, ‘we’re doing the right thing all the time’ is ignorant – I don’t think we’re doing that. I think that everybody needs to step up and make that change.”
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