I HAVE WRITTEN my fair share of articles on packaging, but the subject rarely fails to interest me – or many of my colleagues in the mainstream press. Packaging, from plastic bags to tin cans and vegetable film to compostable cups, is often in the news. And often under attack.
There is one example that I often roll out. It involves individually wrapped bananas, circa 2011. The man from Del Monte (for that was the brand involved) should say no, screamed the headlines, conveniently ignoring the fact that the bags contained controlled ripening technology to extend the shelf-life of the fruit by up to six days. Deliveries would be cut. Food waste reduced. And the bags could then be recycled.
The reasoning behind packaging is often hard to communicate. With 50% of shoppers of the opinion that packaging is “bad for the environment”, there’s a big job to do. But it’s started. The Fresher for Longer campaign being run by Incpen, the British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drink Federation should be applauded. The messaging is beginning to move away from the much-maligned “sustainable packaging” (page 12) towards appreciation of the role packaging plays in reducing food waste up and down the supply chain.
Drinks have been trickier. Especially hot ones in takeaway form. When it comes to foodservice waste, one of the long-term headaches has been the disposable paper cup. Of the 2.5 billion used in the UK each year, pretty much all of them are landfilled. Can a new initiative to collect the cups and recycle them succeed where others have failed? Possibly (page 16).
Of course, rather than use a cup and recycle it, it’s always better to use it and reuse it. Interest in reusable cups, like KeepCup, is certainly rising but those coffee shop owners I have spoken to recently feel they haven’t quite taken off yet. It’s about changing consumer habits. But it’s happening with plastic bags (bags for life), so why not cups? Perhaps a tax on paper cups is in order … but that would demonise a very useful piece of packaging, wouldn’t it? As ever, never a dull moment in packaging.