Environmental Impact of Food Packaging Plastics and Barriers in Elimination

Monikandon Sukumaran,* Kesavan Devarayan, and Ramar Marimuthu Tamil Nadu Dr.J.Jayalalithaa Fisheries University, Nagapattinam College of Fisheries Engineering, Nagapattinam

2021-07-13 14:55:52

Credit: pixabay.com

Credit: pixabay.com

Nearly all of us know about the plastics and many of us have even seen the pictures about the ill effects of plastics. But in the recent years, plastic is considered as a major pollutant causing environmental problems. The plastics used for packaging the food contributes a significant amount of non-degradable plastics that are discarded directly into the environment. These discarded plastics are often reach the intestines of whales, sea birds and other marine species. The marine species with stomach full of plastics fragments or plastic bags starves for the survival. We often see in some pictures and news that the dolphins in the ocean playing with plastics or plastic bags and at several places turtles entrapped in plastics straps. From the last decades the problems are increasing even though the people around the globe have some public consciousness about the problem of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment. Recent studies done by numerous researchers have revealed the fact of packing plastics and its contribution to the environmental problems.

Barriers in reducing package plastic uses

Researchers at Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Germany, has evaluated the cause for the barriers in the use of package plastics. They have identified some of the main barriers for reducing the package plastics.

Habits of people: The people who wants to make shopping at shopping malls, supermarkets etc never likes to take their own bags or containers for purchasing of grocery and foods instead they choose processed or packed foods and grocery, this is the first reason where the manufacturers are interested in supplying package foods or products.

Lack of knowledge among the people: Based on the level of education and knowledge, few have the knowledge about the package plastics, its types and its impact to the environment. Several people do not possess the sufficient knowledge about the types of plastics and its sustainable uses.

Package Material properties: Mainly people prefer the packaging plastics on foods due to light weight, tear resistant and shatterproof.  

Price of the packaging: In general plastic free packaged materials or groceries are costlier than the plastic package materials or groceries. Plastic packaged items are available at the affordable price.

Availability or choice: Most of the food products or groceries are available at supermarkets and malls in plastic packages and people left with little choice for non-plastic package foods or materials.

Convenience in handling: Most of the people feels it inconvenient to take the own containers to shops as they have to carry twice the container and also has to clean the container before and after.

Time consumption: Time considered as a crucial barrier to plastic-free shopping. Taking time for filling the plastic free groceries or unprocessed foods is considered as a important factor in choosing the plastic packaged groceries. Other important thing is that the unprocessed foodstuffs take more time for preparing or cooking than the packaged processed foods.

Packed Food Hygiene: Several consumers believes that the packed food is hygiene than the foods without packages, this makes the consumer to rely on the packaged foods or groceries.

Culture of food among the people: Many of them are unaware, when we consume the non seasonal or non-regional food every day in our life as a matter of preservation all these non-seasonal or non-regional food materials has to be packed for its freshness during the long transport from one place to another.

Diffusion of social responsibility: Both the industry and individual should have the social responsibility to solve the package plastic problem. Because industry is responsible for packing, so many food products in package plastics, it must offer some solutions to this plastic problem.

Packaging plastics is a social trap

The pollution of environment by package plastics is a social trap. People and the industry as a whole must think together to prevent the large-scale use of single use package plastics products. Its nevertheless happening on a large scale, people blame the industry for uses of plastics and instead the retailers of food shops claim that most of the consumers demand for the products covered with package plastics for their convenience. Solving these issues requires a holistic approach between the industry and the consumers.


The impact of plastics on environment and its way in to the oceans and the aquatic environment is well known to the people in the society. Recent studies by the European researchers have suggested that the industry should come with a packaging plastic which are recyclable instead of single use plastics. Furthermore, steps should be taken to limit the reach of package plastics in to the environment. Solving the issues of package plastics needs a holistic approach between the people and the industry. Further studies on potential use of packaging plastics and alternative packaging materials is necessary to mitigate the ill effects of single use packaging plastics.