The latest plastic ban has taken the Food Businesses on a swirl! In several cases, this ban has not created much of a difference; you can use cloth or fibre bags to carry and conduct your daily activities.
But what if you are a Food Business Operator and have to supply your final product as takeaways, or serve products in plastic items or use plastic products to serve to patients/school children. What would be your next POA with the current plastic ban in place?
Did you know that if you are found to use or possess plastic bags, you can be fined or a penalty can be imposed on you and your business?
Let’s understand the history, present and the future that can affect the Food business in the middle of this prevailing plastic ban. Shall we?
Since many years, glass and laminates comprising of plastics, metal or paper are traditionally used for packaging of food. These materials are derived from oil, coal or natural gas and once disposed of, require hundreds of years to degrade into primary compounds. The low cost of synthetic polymers is one of the main reasons for its popularity but growing concerns on environmental impacts of synthetic polymers have led to consumers as well as food manufacturers to explore for alternative packaging solutions.
What are the possible solutions to the Plastic Ban?
Biodegradable packaging materials are thin layers of biopolymers which are produced using renewable raw materials like proteins or polysaccharides extracted from agricultural, marine and animal sources. Exposure to the optimum soil, moisture, oxygen and micro-organisms can degrade these materials to simple substances like carbon-dioxide, water and biomass. The biodegradation rate of biopolymers has been reported to be some days (3 to 30 days) to even months (3 to 6 months) for many raw materials while biodegradation of synthetic plastic polymers may take more than 30 years.
What are these made of and how can these be used during plastic ban?
Various raw materials like polysaccharides from vegetal sources (cellulose and its derivatives, pectin, starch), polysaccharides from marine sources (agar, alginate and carrageenan, chitosan), proteins from marine sources (gelatin, myofibrillar proteins), proteins from vegetal sources (soy, zein) and lipids (candelilla wax, beeswax, carnauba wax) are used in the production of biodegradable materials. These materials can be elaborated by various techniques like casting, extrusion and tape casting.
How does Biodegradable Packaging work amidst the Plastic ban?
Two main permeants that can transfer to and from the surrounding environment and affect the product quality, as well as shelf life, are water vapour and oxygen. Major film characteristics that define their packaging applications are water vapor permeability, oxygen permeability, tensile strength, elasticity, water, or lipid solubility. The success of biodegradable packaging applications is strongly dictated by the storage conditions as well as the various components in the film like plasticizers, cross-linking agents, antimicrobial agents, antioxidants, and texture agents. Research demonstrates improvement in the barrier properties of protein films by incorporation of hydrophobic additives in the film composition. It has also been observed that increase in the concentration of plasticizers can negatively impact the mechanical and barrier properties of chitosan films.
Natural antimicrobial agents are added into biopolymer films to create an environment that will retard or prevent the growth of microorganisms on the surface of the product within the packaging. Similarly, biopolymer films are used as carrier agents for various other additives like antioxidants, antibrowning agents, nutraceuticals, texture enhancers, flavor and color additives in order to boost their functional and organoleptic properties.
What are the possible obstacles that biodegradable plastics against the plastic ban?
Despite the various benefits of biodegradable packaging demonstrated by scientists, obstacles like improved barrier properties, cost-effectiveness and technical application methods need to be overcome for commercial application. Research on the production and application of biodegradable films is in its infancy but the potential possessed by biodegradable films is being realized by manufacturers and consumers alike. It is anticipated that biodegradable packaging of food will have a beaming future as it can offer natural protection to foods according to specific packaging requirements.
How can Food Businesses devise a strategic plan around the current plastic ban?
1. Use alternatives for immediate consumption, like paper straws, paper cups, degradable plastic or utensils made of non-reactive metals
2. Use glass or paper cups for takeaways and develop an effective system for getting the bottles back
3. Cut down on plastic by including innovative crockery like edible spoons, plates, glasses, etc
4. Hospitals and schools should use non-reactive items like steel plates, degradable plastics, paper boxes, glass water bottles for decreasing the environmental burden and working towards the health of the children and patients
5. Use rubber-made gloves, storage tanks, pipes, etc., for decreasing the plastic level in the food preparation premises
6. Deploy the use of paper, cotton or fibre – made bags instead of plastic ones for takeaways
7. Aluminum foils and boxes work best for takeaways instead of plastic boxes
Food Businesses should be ready to deploy strategies in the light of any new regulations or orders like this Plastic ban that come into the picture. You can get free consultation for your business by clicking on the link – Here
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