COP 26 has catapulted sustainability to the fore for industry worldwide
As the world population grows and people flock to cities, we are experiencing a rapidly urbanising population, putting a lot of pressure on infrastructure, job creation, climate and the environment, affirms Dawood Al Rahbi, Global Head of Supply Chain, OQ* in this OpEd contribution.
Over the past decade, the packaging industry has enjoyed steady growth due to increase in demand, lower cost, and high performance.
The phenomenal and exponential demand for packaging products sparked discussions and movements concerning the impact of packaging on sustainability.
One of the most popularly supported campaigns is the ban on single use plastics sweeping the four corners of the world. Sustainable packaging solutions could mean many things ranging from the elimination of single use plastics to the promotion of reusable and recyclable plastic packaging or the reduction of packaging-related wastes.
Countries and governments are going to various lengths to pledge sustainability and reduce the impact on the environment by implementing regulations on decreasing single use plastic and improving waste management. For instance, the two biggest countries in Asia in terms of population, China and India, have pledged to ban single use plastic by 2022.
Eliminating single-use plastic
While eliminating single use plastics is a great move, we, as an industry, need to shift our focus on how plastic packaging can benefit the environment. Almost one-third of the global food produced goes to waste, which is responsible for 8-10% of the global greenhouse gases.
According to a report released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture organisation, the carbon footprint of food waste ranks third when compared to the carbon footprint of countries, after US and China. Across the entire farm-to-fork value chain including food production, handling and storage, processing, distribution and consumption, approximately 1.6bn tonnes of food is lost each year.
This lost food can be used to feed almost 900mn more people, thus eliminating hunger and starvation. All this lost food goes into landfills, emitting methane into the environment and contributing to global warming.
The use of plastics in packaging solutions offers a range of benefits, from increasing productivity to increasing shelf life and protection in transit. Handling and storage account for heavy food losses, especially in low-income countries.
Lack of infrastructure and amenities contributes to this food being lost before reaching the market. Smart packaging of food that protects it from damage in storage and transport can reduce waste and make more food available to direct consumers.
Polymers have excellent electrical, mechanical, insulating, optical, and chemical properties. They also boast a high strength-to-weight ratio, elasticity, and corrosion resistance. Light-weight packaging materials make it easier for bulk volume transport by protecting the goods from environmental factors, thus reducing waste. From rigid, flexible, and durable packaging to wraps and films, each have their distinct role in making the farm-to-fork value chain more sustainable.
At OQ, we manufacture a range of food packaging solutions to mitigate the food loss and waste across the value chain. Our versatile solutions are designed to meet an array of industry applications in order to minimize loss and increase shelf life.
They exhibit durability from a balance of flexibility and strength with high tenacity in addition to high heat and chemical resistance. The enhanced barrier protection, high puncture resistance and improved sealing properties of our food packaging solutions extend product shelf life and ensure package integrity, so that they are safe for our consumers.
With the evolving needs of the growing population and impact on the environment, focus on sustainability in packaging is a global necessity.