Fact sheet: Reusable Food Packaging and Foodware

Everyone is talking about reuse. It’s a promising approach to drastically reduce packaging waste, but scaling it up responsibly calls for some careful considerations. Check out Food Packaging Forum’s fact sheet for a quick introduction!

Scientists find nearly a quarter million tiny nanoplastic particles are shed from liter-sized water bottles into water, which people consume. This measurement of plastic particles is larger and more precise than other studies on bottled water, which have disproportionately studied larger microplastics, which are easier to detect.

Abstract: Micro-nano plastics originating from the prevalent usage of plastics have raised increasingly alarming concerns worldwide. However, there remains a fundamental knowledge gap in nanoplastics because of the lack of effective analytical techniques. This study developed a powerful optical imaging technique for rapid analysis of nanoplastics with unprecedented sensitivity and specificity. As a demonstration, micro-nano plastics in bottled water are analyzed with multidimensional profiling of individual plastic particles. Quantification suggests more than 105 particles in each liter of bottled water, the majority of which are nanoplastics. This study holds the promise to bridge the knowledge gap on plastic pollution at the nano level.

Scientists find almost 90% of protein sources from supermarkets contain microplastics. Samples were taken from 16 different proteins sold in the U.S., including seafood, pork, beef, chicken, tofu, and three different plant-based meat alternatives.

“This is a startling reminder of just how prolific plastic pollution has become – humans live on land and yet seafood samples are just as likely to be contaminated with plastics as are terrestrial derived proteins,” said study co-author Dr. Britta Baechler, a marine biologist and Associate Director of Plastics Science at Ocean Conservancy. “And there’s no escaping them no matter what you eat, it seems. The plastic pollution crisis is impacting all of us, and we need to take action to address its many forms.”

Abstract: We investigated microplastic (MP) contamination in 16 commonly-consumed protein products (seafoods, terrestrial meats, and plant-based proteins) purchased in the United States (U.S.) with different levels of processing (unprocessed, minimally-processed, and highly-processed), brands (1 – 4 per product type, depending on availability) and store types (conventional supermarket and grocer featuring mostly natural/organic products). Mean (±stdev) MP contamination per serving among the products was 74 ± 220 particles (ranging from 2 ± 2 particles in chicken breast to 370 ± 580 in breaded shrimp). Concentrations (MPs/g tissue) differed between processing levels, with highly-processed products containing significantly more MPs than minimally-processed products (p = 0.0049). There were no significant differences among the same product from different brands or store types. Integrating these results with protein consumption data from the American public, we estimate that the mean annual exposure of adults to MPs in these proteins is 11,000 ± 29,000 particles, with a maximum estimated exposure of 3.8 million MPs/year. These findings further inform estimations of human exposure to MPs, particularly from proteins which are important dietary staples in the U.S. Subsequent research should investigate additional drivers of MPs in the human diet, including other understudied food groups sourced from both within and outside the U.S.

Consumer Reports tested popular fast foods and supermarket staples for chemicals commonly found in plastics called bisphenols and phthalates, which can be harmful to your health. Here’s what they found—and how to stay safer.

Scientists compare the microplastics content of lettuce plants cultivated in Lisbon urban gardens and rural areas, as well as samples bought in supermarkets. All washed leaves showed presence of microplastics, though lettuce grown in urban gardens from high traffic areas showed the highest microplastic levels.

Abstract: Urban vegetable gardens are very often a feature of cities that want to offer their citizens a more sustainable lifestyle by producing their own food products. However, cities can have significant pollution levels (or pollution hotspots) due to specific sources of pollution, such as traffic. Among the various pollutants, microplastics (MPs) are emerging as a consensual concern due to the awareness of the environmental contamination, their bioaccumulation potential and human intake, and, consequently unknown human health impacts. The present study compared the content of MPs in lettuce plants cultivated in Lisbon urban gardens with those cultivated in a rural area, as well as samples bought in supermarkets. Microplastics were detected in all washed leaves, with mean levels ranging from 6.3 ± 6.2 to 29.4 ± 18.2 MPs/g. Lettuce grown in urban gardens from areas with high traffic density showed higher MPs levels. Weak positive Spearman’s rank correlations were found between MPs content and concentrations of Cu and S (determined by Particle Induced X-Ray Emission, PIXE), suggesting a possible role of traffic contribution to MPs levels, as both elements are considered traffic-source tracers. These results contribute to shed light on the MP contamination of vegetables grown in such urban environments, that may represent a potential MP exposure route through the dietary intake, corresponding to a 70% increase in annual MP intake compared to lettuces bought in supermarkets.

Scientists evaluate the number of microplastic particles found in in common foods in the American diet, as well as inhaled from the air.

Abstract: Microplastics are ubiquitous across ecosystems, yet the exposure risk to humans is unresolved. Focusing on the American diet, we evaluated the number of microplastic particles in commonly consumed foods in relation to their recommended daily intake. The potential for microplastic inhalation and how the source of drinking water may affect microplastic consumption were also explored. Our analysis used 402 data points from 26 studies, which represents over 3600 processed samples. Evaluating approximately 15% of Americans’ caloric intake, we estimate that annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74000 and 121000 when inhalation is considered. Additionally, individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90000 microplastics annually, compared to 4000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water. These estimates are subject to large amounts of variation; however, given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates.