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Packaging in the Crosshairs

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Friday, November 13th, 2009
By Jeff

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of bad press regarding packaging, especially food service packaging. There have been venomous articles written ranging from packaging filling up landfills to packaging that causes erectile dysfunction (no lie, just saw that one yesterday). Some writings do have valid points, but never really tell the whole story. Take the landfill debate for instance. It is true that most plastic packaging that is properly disposed of in a landfill, will stay there for a very long time. Nobody will debate that. What the folks who write those articles fail to tell their readers is that damn near everything that is disposed of in a modern landfill will also stay there for a very long time to come. This includes organic materials such as food waste, paper and even grass clippings. Why?  Because most modern landfills are designed to keep light, heat and moisture out. These are the very things required to break materials down.  I won’t bore you with all the science behind it, but you can certainly read what Dr. Ramani Narayan of Michigan State University states about landfills. In a nutshell and to paraphrase, landfills are not giant composting sites but rather giant mumifiers. But again, these are facts that enemies of food service and other packaging and misinformers who write about packaging won’t tell you.

As for the “plastic food containers are clogging our landfills” statement, here too, you are only being told part of the whole story. According to the EPA statistics for 2007, plastics (that’s all plasticsand not just food packaging) make up only 12.1% of all the material going into the municipal solid waste stream.  The food service packaging portion of that is only 1.2%! They go on to state that organics of all things, make up the largest component of the materials. That would be your yard trimmings, paper and food waste. Here again, the naysayers fail to mention that little tidbit because it does not fit into whatever agenda they have.

What they should be talking about are the virtues of food service packaging. Here’s a few to ponder. 

Sanitation – Single use food packaging has been proven to be more sanitary than reusable china and glassware. A 2002 study conducted in Las Vegas, NV concluded that 18% of the reusable items tested had higher than acceptable bacterial counts.

Water & Energy Savings – Industrial size dish washing units used by restaurants will consume 2 to 7 gallons of 150°F to 180°F water per minute.  Do the math!

Food Spoilage – Insulated food packaging will keep take-out foods hot much longer which decreases the chance for food being tossed due to inadequate temperatures or food spoilage.

Worker Safety – Most single use food service packaging is very lightweight which reduces the risk for accidents such as back injury. It also helps reduce the risks of scratches and cuts that can happen with chipped permanent & glassware items.

Convenience – Many types of food packaging may be washed out and used over and over again in the home place for leftovers storage.  Some, like our Smart Set Pro series are also microwave safe for further home reuse convenience.

So the next time you read an article, blog or other report droning on and on about the ills of such products, do me a favor and just do a little research on your own before passing judgment. Good sources of information are the  FPI, BPI and EPA.  Or just contact us and ask a question.  I promise, we’ll give you the straight up answer without any spin.

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