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.

The Joint Initiative for Sustainable Humanitarian Assistance Packaging Waste Management has prepared these guidelines to emphasize the importance of reducing packaging materials and prioritizing refusal and reduction over recycling due to the challenges of collection and recycling in areas where humanitarian operations take place.

To reduce packaging waste, it is important to choose packaging-free alternatives, advocate for suppliers of packaging materials to reduce packaging, eliminate single-use plastics, optimize the size of the packaging, and enable packaging to be reused or repurposed using innovative designs.

Following the waste-management hierarchy, this document also provides comprehensive guidelines to ensure sound management of packaging waste reuse and repurpose, recycling, and disposal in humanitarian operations.

Unilever is vocal about its desire to conduct business that does ‘more good for our planet and our society – not just less harm’. In recent years, it has been visible at conferences around the world, promoting its plan to use ‘less plastic, better plastic or no plastic’.

In this report, Greenpeace International investigates the reality behind these soundbites. Greenpeace exposes the blight of Unilever’s single-use sachets on low-income communities and the glaring gap that exists between what the company says it will do, and what it actually does.

Greenpeace concludes by urging Unilever to grasp the opportunity presented by the new UN Global Plastics Treaty. The company must spearhead an industry-wide movement, one that transitions businesses away from single-use plastics and towards the adoption of at-scale reusable packaging systems around the world.