| Share facebook twitter | RSS

Ambassador report

Ambassador report

[Ambassador report] Disposable food packaging for a healthier Earth

by Alice Ervaz | 08-01-2020 03:22 Comments 3 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations



According to Vegan Society, in the timespan between 2014 and 2019 interest in veganism was estimated to have increased sevenfold – with meat substitutes sales increasing by 451% in the European market. The difference a plant-based diet can make are indeed astonishing – suffices to say that if every family in the UK were to remove animal proteins from just one meal a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 16 million cars off the road. Finally, one vegan world would be able to save 8 million human lives and cut greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds by 2050. Sounds like veganism is the right way to save the planet… or isn’t it?


The week before Christmas, I decided to pay a closer look at my trash bin. Being a flexitarian, I don’t consume much meat during the week (especially during the exam session… while time spent at home is indeed abundant, my willingness to cook gets even lower than the temperature outside) and the few times I do, I ask my butcher to wrap my steaks in eco-friendly paper packages. What indeed piled up in my bin this week were the plastic packages of my delicious vegan food – and plastics is something I am definitely not a fan of.


Certainly, my turmeric-flavored carrot-and-quinoa croquettes are less polluting in terms of carbon dioxide compared to, let’s say, a hearty slice of rare Fiorentina steak – but what about the plastic package my vegan nuggets come wrapped in? Even when trying to take the more environmentally friendly choice, we often find ourselves faced with a Batesonian double bind. By supporting the meat industry, you contribute with your fair share of CO2 emissions, yet by choosing the vegan option, while a little healthier in the long run, there is no guarantee that the plastics of the wrap won’t end up in the Pacific Ocean. In whatever way you decide to look at it, the picture looks rather grim.


The topic for this month was food – so why are we discussing plastic containers? The answer might seem more appalling than the question. If plastics is really not an option in terms of sustainability, how about creating a new kind of material that is actually derived by… food? Yes, you heard me well – food wrapped up in food-derived packages. This is what the members of the Italian startup Splastica have worked on in the past two years and a half, with the first patent being given to a biopolymer that is based on spoiled milk. The final product resembles hard plastics with higher thermic stability in a wide interval of temperatures but what makes it even cooler is the fact that the material is perfectly compostable and biodegradable.


But Splastica is not the only project in Italy that aims to create polymers from waste materials – Orange Fiber is a Sicilian startup that aims to revolutionize the world of upcycling in the fashion field. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that every year the Italian agrume industry registers a surplus in production – 300 tons of oranges go uneaten and have to be disposed of. The objective of the project is to actually find a way to turn this waste into a new, perfumed textile incorporated with essential oils that will release vitamin A, C and E on the skin of the wearer.


As we have seen it is not simply a matter of food per se, but rather a whole new production process in which the waste of the food industry can be given new life in the forms of biopolymers to be employed in the fashion, construction and packaging industry. Luckily these startups are not lone pioneers in this field – upcycling has become a global challenge that more and more stakeholders must face every day to ensure a sustainable future for our planet. As of now, many projects are still in an embryonal phase, but with time and practice we will for sure be able to render many fields of production and consumption eco-friendly.

3 Comments

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Hello Alice

    I do hope that you are fine and doing great with your works.
    Thank you for your report about Disposable food packaging for a healthier Earth

    Green Cheers from Nepal :)
    Keep writing great reports.
    We are eager to read more reports from you.

    Regards,
    Kushal Naharki

    Posted 20-01-2020 05:08

Hyeongmin Mentor

  • Hyeongmin Mentor says :
    Hello Alice

    Your reports pointed out very important aspects. Theme of the month's report was about food, but focusing only on the contents of the food is not that good. Containers are something that causes as much pollution, therefore to be considered in serious manner.
    It's really good to see that some bio polymers are being developed in Italy. There has to be some effort, but after that if bio polymers replace the current plastic materials, it would bring unimaginably huge difference in current situation. I'm sure the quality of those polymers would enhance as time goes, and human society will soon be surrounded by bio polymers.

    Thank you for the insightful and informative report.
    Posted 12-01-2020 10:27

Lisa Mentor

  • Lisa Mentor says :
    Hey Alice
    It's Lisa your mentor!

    Wow. I am just really amazed at how you have pointed out something that many of us miss!!!
    Yes, it's not only what we eat that matters, but how they come out is also important.
    If you use plastic bags and paper wrappers for your veggie meals, though you may have saved a pig from being cooked and some portion of the forest from being turned into pasture, you are on the other hand cutting off a tree and polluting the environment with your plastic bag and wrapper.

    Thanks for pointing this out I was actually waiting for someone to talk about the packaging!!

    Anyhow, I am not sure how other countries are reacting to this problem, but in Korea, more and more places have corn starch straw in the store instead of the plastic straw and also biodegradable plastic bags. How about your country? I would like to know more about it!

    Thanks for the great article.
    I've always thought that you are a very talented writer:)
    Posted 11-01-2020 17:19

Post a comment

Please sign in

Opportunities

Resources