Covid-19 Shifts Food Packaging Priorities
Over the last decade, consumer pressure and global targets have positioned environmental packaging as a priority for many food brands.
To minimise packaging waste, supermarkets and other retailers have introduced refill schemes and a greater range of unpackaged products. Where protection is necessary, there has been a shift away from plastic towards sustainable packaging options or no packaging at all.
Just as we start to make good progress with reducing excess packaging and waste, Covid-19 comes along. Understandably, we instantly opt for pre-packaged food again. The options to purchase loose fruit and veg is a risk and the choices were reduced by retailers.
Environmental packaging is still preferred, but for the short-term, shoppers are putting their health first.
Shift to Online Shopping
The lockdown period also encouraged many households to shop online and increase reliance on food deliveries. Aylesbury Box Company experienced a rise in demand for cardboard boxes as pubs and restaurants, local stores and producers switched to deliveries.
Shopping online reduces the chance to make your own decisions based on packaging. As an example, you may opt for olive oil in a glass bottle, but the delivered brand was in a plastic bottle. With delivery slots hard to come by, you were unlikely to send it back.
Packaged for Online Shopping
Fortunately, refuse collectors were one of the many essential services that continued to operate during lockdown. When householders used the recycling services, cardboard delivery boxes were gathered for recycling.
The data suggests that even now many shops are open for business, more people than ever are now shopping online. The convenience of goods arriving at your door is tempting, especially if you are working from home.
As consumers, we rely on retailers to make it as easy as possible to opt for sustainable packaging when shopping online. There is scope for many more consumables to switch from plastic to cardboard packaging without compromising the quality or protection.
Increase in Plastic Waste
To support the need for this shift, a survey conducted by Everyday Waste revealed that the 483 participants had increased their plastic packaging waste by 29% during the lockdown period. Each household was disposing of 128 pieces of plastic every week. If this trend is reflective of the country, it suggests that 6 billion plastic items went into our bins each week of lockdown. Of this, 68% were food packaging.
Is Food Packaging Safe?
The risk of infection has put many ‘at risk’ people on high alert. As a precautionary measure, many are opting for plastic food packaging that can be wiped. Cleaning packaging can help elevate fears, but it is not a necessary process for most people.
This month, the Head of Emergencies Programme at the World Health Organisation stated: “There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in the transmission of the virus”.
For anyone concerned about packaging such as carton board and corrugated cardboard fibres being recycled and reused, the process involves exposure to extreme heat. This is effective at killing off any microbes.
Fast Food Packaging
One noticeable change as we moved out of lockdown, was the increase in food and drink packaging left as litter. Many people had enjoyed getting out for walks in local parks, fields and beaches during lockdown. The fresh air, exercise and connection with nature helped people to cope during a time of uncertainty and change. As fast-food restaurants re-opened, these places seemed to be littered with packaging waste.
As takeaways are generally eaten within minutes of purchase, fast food packaging is only required for a very short time. Looking to the future, could we follow in the footsteps of a Brazilian company, Bob’s Burgers? In 2012, they developed edible food wrappers. The wrap was printed with safe ink and dissolved in the mouth. Do you think that a shift towards edible packaging would catch on in the UK?
As we begin to return to a level of normality, shoppers and retailers will continue to adapt. We have to find packaging that protects our health, consumable products and the environment. At Aylesbury Box Company, we feel confident that corrugated cardboard will hold its position as a trusted, sustainable packaging option.
For more information on cardboard packaging for consumables, contact us on 01296 436888 or email@example.com.