Single-use plastic food packaging continues to be a leading contributor to the worldwide waste problem. Though the food industry has been developing strategies to minimize single-use plastic food packaging, it should also continue to understand consumer attitudes and awareness about the problem. Consumer and environmental groups have raised concerns over the harmful effects of plastic food packaging. While the problems are most acute in the food service industry, there are also significant concerns about packaging for other items like cosmetics, detergents, plastic bags used for taking photographs, etc.
Plastic Food Packaging Manufacturers Association (FMAPMA) says that single-use plastic packaging has two negative effects. The first is on the environment because plastic often contains more contaminants than does glass. Glass, unlike plastic, is recyclable. Second, on the supply chain, if one plastic product is used to create numerous plastic products, the amount of land used for creating new food supply is increased.
As per the FMAPMA’s analysis, over 70% of the packaging manufactured in India to meet the specifications laid down by the organization. However, there is still an urgent need to enhance the quality control measures for such supplies. With increasing population, there is an increased demand for processed food that is light and easy to carry. A major challenge is to improve upon the usability of the products for everyday use. To this end, the plastic pack must be leak proof in order to ensure adequate levels of protection against leakage.
There are many challenges faced by manufacturers dealing with single-use plastic. These include issues arising from increased population, changing practices associated with modernity and challenges posed by social-ecological problems. One such challenge is to improve upon the convenience provided to consumers and at the same time reduce the impact on the environment. Plastic has been criticized for its waste material and its contribution to air pollution because of the heavy usage of plastic as a resource. Manufacturers are looking at ways and opportunities to reduce the amount of energy required in the production process.
The other challenges faced relate to changing practices in societies as a whole. This has resulted in a shift away from agricultural activities towards a more automated process which adversely affected the environment. The reduction in rural employment is also affecting the sustainability of the social-ecological systems in favor of greater dependence on artificially created food provisioning systems. The shift towards robotics and automated systems may impact on the extent to which the plastic food packaging can be easily used.
Innovative solutions are required to overcome these challenges. The methodology for success therefore requires a combination of multiple strategies. On the one hand, advanced processing technologies need to be enhanced to streamline the production process. Processes should be developed which reduce both labor input and transportation costs, and this leads to significant cost savings. These savings are then passed on to consumers and retailers, creating a positive feedback cycle within the supply chain and improving overall competitiveness.
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