The packaging debate

Every year approximately one million tonnes worth of packaging is being brought into homes right across Northern Ireland.

Most of this comes from the thousands of tonnes worth of packaging created by food manufacturers on a daily basis. Made up of unwanted wrapping and food containers, which are mostly thrown away, superfluous packaging has an extremely negative impact on the environment.

“Food packaging makes up a significant amount of the waste generated by households in Northern Ireland. I can understand why food producers want to make their products look attractive, but the reality is that a lot of this packaging goes straight from the top shelf to the household bin,”

“Food packaging makes up a significant amount of the waste generated by households in Northern Ireland. I can understand why food producers want to make their products look attractive, but the reality is that a lot of this packaging goes straight from the top shelf to the household bin,” says Ricky Burnett, Policy Director with council-funded waste management advisory body arc21. Representing eleven Councils based along the eastern region of Northern Ireland, one of arc21’s core objectives is to encourage more people to ‘reduce, re-use and recycle’.

“Consumers today demand high quality products and, whilst we recognise that packaging exists to help protect and preserve the food, in some cases it is just not needed. A large amount of waste produced by the average household is made up of disposable packaging, which is having a damaging effect on the environment. All of this waste has to go somewhere and most of it ends up in landfill,” he continued.

WASTEFUL USE OF RESOURCES

Apples in polystyrene trays, pasta sauces in plastic packaging with cardboard sleeves, toothpaste tube boxes can all been seen as examples of unnecessary packaging. A further example of over-packaging is the use of standardised boxes. This can lead to what’s referred to as ‘void space’ in the package, which is both a wasteful use of resources and misleading for consumers. Between 1999 and 2005 the total volume of packaging waste produced across the UK grew by 12 per cent. According to WRAP this has been blamed by evolving demographics, such as the growth of single-person households and changing consumption patterns.

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