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Nowadays, plastic can be found literally everywhere, even in our plates. During this month of Plastic Free July, we are addressing the problem of food packaging. Bottles, bowls, trays, lids, condiment jars, individual packaging, all have one thing in common: they are made of single-use plastic.
What’s wrong with food packaging ?
Every year, 400 million tons of plastic are produced in the world, 1/3 of this production is dedicated to the manufacturing of single-use packaging for consumer goods. In concrete terms, a large part of this plastic will contain food products, packets of cookies or trays of French fries, which we will find in supermarkets, restaurants, or which will be delivered. Their only purpose is to be thrown away once used. Nearly 22% of the waste found on the beaches during the Ocean Initiatives (waste collection) is food packaging or containers.
As they are made of plastic, these single-use packages will have multiple impacts on the environment throughout their life cycle: from the extraction of fossil raw materials to production and transformation, through distribution, to their end of life where they become waste that is only partly recycled.
This plastic does not disappear, it degrades into micro and nano plastic particles that are omnipresent in our environment: they are found in the air, in water, in food, and even in our organs. The toxic chemicals in plastics (additives and solvents) contain phthalates and endocrine disruptors that have a potentially serious impact on human health. The increased use of plastic and recycled plastic in food packaging raises concerns about dangerous food contact materials (FCM). Approximately 12,000 harmful chemicals are used in packaging and migrate into our food.
As you may have understood, plastic food packaging brings many problems, since in addition to ending up in the environment, it has an impact on our health by being in direct contact with the products we consume.
Putting an end to single-use plastic
To limit the use of single-use plastic and packaging, an ambitious legislative framework must be put in place. That means that laws banning certain types of products must be adopted to reduce the waste generated by them and allow the development of reuse. Alongside the European NGO coalition Rethink Plastic Alliance, Surfrider has sent its recommendations to the European Commission to limit single-use food packaging and reduce plastic production.
On takeaway, the demands are clear:
- Eliminate single-use plastic containers and packaging: boxes, bottles, bags.
- Develop a deposit system with reusable containers for delivery/take-out with standardized containers for the different portions (dishes, appetizers/desserts).
- Eliminate single-use packaging for condiments and other products in individual bags by adding sauces and condiments directly to the dish at the time of purchase or by replacing them with small reusable containers with a return system. Une campagne pour adopter les bons gestes
A campaign to encourage good behaviour
With the agency Ici Barbès, Surfrider is launching today an awareness campaign to denounce the use of single-use plastic containers in the takeaway food industry. Reducing this packaging is essential because we know that recycling is not a miracle solution. As a citizen, we have the choice to favor alternatives such as deposits or bulk.
The deposit system that used to be the norm has been replaced by a fast and growing consumption that uses plastic packaging as a cheap and easy alternative. An option must be offered to the citizen so that he/she can make the choice of a more respectful consumption of the environment and of the Ocean.
We support restaurant owners in this process through our Ocean Friendly Restaurant program, and we will continue to lobby institutions for ambitious laws to facilitate the implementation of these changes in our habits. Everyone is part of the solution, so you too can do the right thing and say no to single-use plastic. Make the choice to reuse, make the choice to protect your health and what you value.
Want to reduce plastic? Check out our plastic-free guides and you too can be part of the change.