Challenges of Single-Use Plastic and Other Plastic Packaging

A key piece of the food packaging landscape is plastics, and their role in pollution (and potential reuse).

In your mind, what are the most pressing challenges of plastic food packaging, and single-use (bags, cups, etc.) specifically?

Also, what are the different purposes that plastics serve throughout the food systems value chain?

Please share any thoughts, examples, experiences, or ideas you might have!

In my perspective, the sheer amount of single use plastic combined with the outdated resource material is like that drawer of stuff that we all shove random things in to; it once served a purpose, but now it’s overflowing and a problem that needs to be dealt with yesterday. Yes we can start putting things in a new drawer (just like how some countries ship their landfill waste to others), but it doesn’t solve the problem of limited space and the stuff inside. Plastic became ubiquitous from a combination of the amount of raw material available and advances in chemical technology during the mid 20th century, but instead of identifying its limitations and exploring other options we are now up to our ears with plastic in the 21st century, not even 100 years later. This of course runs in tandem with the 21st century lifestyle of global products and on the go eating. In our early stages of research I see opportunities for advancement in three areas of the food plastic lifecycle: non-petroleum based feedstock for recycling plastic, a new bio-based resource as an alternative to our current petroleum waste resource, and completely and truly compostable plastic. What other ways should we be considering?

Water bottles! In the Film and Commercial Production industry it is a huge problem hundreds of thousands of plastic water bottles go into the garbage every day. Each industry should address the overuse of plastic water bottles and come up with a solution, a sustainable way to serve water. Free refill tap water stations, BYOB (bring your own bottle), and/or filtered water systems where people can refill their own container for a minimal fee to fill their own bottles could be made available everywhere. For example, the app “Tap”. Tap is an app that allows you to find nearby refill stations, “so you never have to buy bottled water again. You just open the app and within seconds you’ll find the closest place to refill your water bottle.” around the world

@NickAzer Do you have any hemp plastic companies you are working with on this Prize? Recent technology has opened the door to eco-friendly polymer made from hemp. We no longer need to be reliant on petroleum, these bioplastics are renewable, sustainable and often made using agricultural waste.

@Joanne , at this early stage we are definitely looking in to all avenues and current innovators. If you have any suggestions as to who we should look in to feel free to post them and tag me!

I posted this on another thread, but figured this may be a better location? Came across this piece and it seemed relevant to this prize: How Dole plans to eliminate food waste by 2025

@Thanku This is great that they are working on this invovation. Banana leaves are used in many grocery stores in South East Asia already. They are wonderful packaging alternative for tropical areas.

Found these guys via Fast Company: - an intro by the founders.
Creating Change - Footprint® - and their idea to build a new type of grocery store…

@Thanku Thank you!! This is a wonderfully inspirational company. Imagine plastic-free grocery stores?!

Awesome video @Thanku - I have some of that tech in my freezer right now, in fact :slight_smile: There’s a lot of innovation that could be brought to the grocery store! What do you think might be some of the best food packaging solutions?

@Joanne, are there any particular examples of products you love that use the hemp plastic? Or leaders/organizations applying it now?

@NickAzer my quick response is local food production is a trim tab shift I believe. There are plenty of produce delivery companies that offer local fresh produce. In LA, they would drop it off in a basket–no plastic at all! But that only works when the food is from the neighborhood/community/regional food hub.

I came across this article as well–describing how innovative people are becoming with food purchasing and sourcing:

Interesting article @Thanku ! I went on to also read some of the linked articles about food waste and am super curious what that end of the supply chain looks like; is food always donated or is it sold to food banks at a reduced cost per weight unit? What happens to food that is no longer fit for consumption? Does it go to feed livestock, and if so is there a money transaction for this?

great questions @nmgraham - more investigation needed on my end!

Hey all, thank you for sharing these examples of innovations already out there, transforming the plastics landscape. It’s fascinating to see so much activity in this space. In your opinion, is there a type(s) of single-use, plastic-based, food packaging that we are not likely to see going away? Or, at least, that it would be very hard to get consumer/industries to switch from? Why?