Opening up: What Plastic Is Used for Food Packaging?

Plastic has been used for food packaging for decades, but is plastic packaging the best option for packaging our produce? Find out with Takeaway Packaging.

Since the introduction of the plastic packaging tax — affecting all packaging that doesn’t contain at least 30% recycled plastic — businesses are having to rethink their packaging strategies to avoid added financial burdens.

This is another move by the government that provides a clear incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic packaging — if any at all — and decrease the amount of new plastic packaging being produced. To understand whether or not you’re affected, you might be asking yourself, “what plastic is used for packaging?”.

Why Is Plastic Packaging Bad for The Environment?

First, we’ve got to understand why plastic is falling out of favour. It’s actually pretty simple: plastic packaging is bad for the environment. Not only is it contributing to all kinds of pollution, affecting marine life and spoiling creatures’ natural habitats, but it also doesn’t degrade for hundreds or even thousands of years. This means that the plastic we use today will be around long after we’re gone, marking the planet indelibly for decades to come.

What Plastic Is Used for Food Packaging?

Most of the plastic used for food packaging is made from crude oil, a fossil fuel that’s notoriously bad for the environment. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is typically used for drinks bottles, ready meal containers and produce trays, making it one of the most popular thermoplastics used for all kinds of packaging. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is used to manufacture plastic milk bottles that require more protection, while polypropylene (PP) is also used for trays and salad bowls in some instances.

While some of these plastics are recyclable, it’s incredibly laborious and harmful to extract the raw elements from the earth to create these kinds of packaging. Not only that, the plastic that’s created takes years to degrade. Even when it does, it slowly spills out all of its toxic contents back into the earth. Although we’ve relied on plastic’s practical and durable qualities, it’s clear that there’s a heavy price to pay for its ubiquitous usage.

Is Plastic Safe for Food Packaging?

Research has discovered that we ingest thousands of tiny plastic particles every year. These take the form of microplastics that are invisible to the naked eye but still end up in our food and drinks. These worrying findings further indicate that we need alternatives to plastic packaging for our food and beverages.

Most plastics — like those used for drinks bottles or takeaway packaging — aren’t meant to be reused as they slowly start to degrade, even after minimal usage. This increases the odds of ingesting microplastics and means that the packaging we’re left with after ordering a takeaway should go straight in the recycling bin — by all accounts, a pretty wasteful practice.

What Are the Alternatives to Plastic Packaging? 

The good news is that there are plenty of suitable alternatives to plastic. Each can be used in a variety of ways to help protect ourselves and the planet, especially since we’re coming to understand why plastic packaging is so bad for the environment.

Cardboard: Usually made from a high percentage of recycled materials, cardboard makes surprisingly effective packaging. In some cases, it’s reusable, but its biodegradable and recyclable qualities mean that, once it’s served its purpose, it can be easily recycled. It can be lined with bioplastics, making it grease-proof and oil-resistant — perfect for pizza boxes

Paper: Also made from totally natural and sustainable resources, it makes the perfect choice for takeaway bags. While the use of plastic bags is in steep decline due to increased taxes and heightened awareness of their negative environmental impact, paper bags make a perfect eco-friendly solution — ideal for takeaways and deliveries.

Bioplastic: A much greener alternative to regular plastic, bioplastics are made from plant-based materials that degrade naturally over time. They don’t leave behind any nasty surprises when they decompose either, they simply return to the earth as natural elements like water, carbon dioxide and non-toxic biomass. Bioplastics are particularly useful for hot and cold drinks containers, as they can be used as biodegradable coffee cup lids or to line the inside of paper beverage containers.

Glass: While suitable for home use, glass is expensive to manufacture and is fragile compared to its other eco-friendly counterparts. Nevertheless, it’s a great option for storing food in your fridge or for cold drinks if you want to avoid using plastic at home.

What Are the Benefits of Avoiding Plastic Packaging?

With so many alternatives to plastic packaging available, you can protect the environment with each of your takeaways without compromising on quality. Each of the alternative materials we’ve mentioned has their own unique advantages, from being 100% biodegradable to sharing the qualities of oil-based plastic without the environmental cost. Why not make the switch to more sustainable packaging and start saving the planet with your takeaways today?

Do you want to become a more eco-friendly business? Explore our range of sustainable takeaway packaging, perfect for home deliveries and suitable for all kinds of food and drink products.