In these United States, it has been estimated that 30-40% of all foods go uneaten and are wasted. This waste negatively affects the environment and the economics of this country. To grow food, we need land to plant and water plus energy to flourish.
These three items are required for food production. Food then must be harvested,
protected (packaged or not), and transported to get to the proper places in order for it to be used in product or be consumed. Significant amounts of wasted food decompose in our landfills and produce high amounts of methane gases.
How is food protected? It has been proven that oxidation and decay of food can happen more quickly when not packaged. Here lies the dilemma of what packaging to use. Overuse of plastics has been challenged due to its affects in living organisms and in the environment.
Plastics, however, have a place in our society. The American Chemistry Council blog (March 2018) stated, “the longer food can stay fresh, the more of an opportunity it will have to be consumed. The longer a food stays fresh, the greater its chance of being eaten. Studies have shown that cucumbers wrapped in plastic last eleven days longer than unwrapped cucumbers; bananas wrapped in plastic last 21 days longer than their unwrapped counterparts; and beef wrapped in plastic vacuum packaging
with an oxygen barrier film lasts 26 days longer.” Plastic packaging is evident in prolonging food’s longevity. In addition to this, the packaging is light-weight versus other alternatives so it takes less energy to transport to the end consumer. The obvious choice is plastic over other packaging as far as food is concerned for its protection.
In 2014, Franklin and Associates published information regarding the discussion of substituting for plastic packaging in America. According to this cited research, “to substitute the 14.4 million metric tons of plastic packaging in the six packaging categories analyzed, more than 64 million metric tons of other types of packaging would be required. The substitute packaging would require 80 percent more cumulative energy demand and result in 130 percent more global warming potential impacts, expressed as CO2 equivalents, compared to the equivalent plastic packaging.”
This research and more have escalated the urgency for the need of intervention to limit waste. To help this initiative there are national efforts trying to reduce food loss and waste. The USDA and EPA announced the United States’ first-ever food loss and waste reduction goal in September 2015, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. Many companies have also joined together in this initiative.
Obviously, there are many problems affecting our environment and causing global warming. Another growing concern is that plastics are reaching our oceans and thus causing harm to our ecology, health and environment.
Plastic in the oceans is eaten by fish; humans eat fish; plastic in humans and fish is very detrimental to health! Is it the plastics in the packaging of food that reaches our oceans? It should not unless carelessness is to blame.
If we all take responsibility to discard plastic packaging properly, it should actually be collected, recycled and never reach our water sources. However, the unfortunate fact is that plastic cups, bottles, and straws do end up in the oceans. Again, carelessness is to blame.
In summary, plastics are indeed in our oceans and are killing many species as plastic cannot be broken down once consumed. These plastic particles can have a cumulative detrimental effect on our ecological system and to human health. To contribute to a healthier environment, use of glass or a reusable container instead of
plastics at home, while traveling, and especially at the beaches. Use paper straws, not plastic. Using non-disposable plates and utensils can limit the amount of plastics in our waste. If plastics are used discarding them properly is important.
Be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. Discard all trash properly; do not be wasteful; become informed of what you can contribute to the environment.