Plastic Packaging Is Out Of Control
In Part 1, we investigated the impact of human plastics use, both locally in Australia and globally. Only 20% of all plastics worldwide are recycled or incinerated, leaving 5 billion tonnes of plastic polluting our natural environment.
So what can we as individuals do about it?
Put simply, minimise our individual plastic consumption, in all areas possible. But if plastic keeps food fresher for longer doesn't that minimise waste? Read on to find out.
Use-By Dates Guarantee Bare Minimum for Food Safety and Appearance Standards
Not flavour or nutritional content
We as humans need to acknowledge the fact that the moment our food is harvested or slaughtered for our consumption, on a biological scale, it immediately starts to rot. Biochemical (enzymatic) and Microbial Decay is unstoppable and a natural part of the life cycle of organic foods. The use by dates we see on our plastic packaged foods are based on food safety issues, ensuring it looks aesthetically pleasing for the consumer, with no promise of nutritional or flavour content.
Researchers at Penn State studied the effects of food storage on the nutrient content of fresh spinach. Ultimately, they found that spinach stored at cooler temperatures retained more nutrients than at warmer temperatures. But even at 5 degrees Celsius (your fridges standard temperature), the spinach retained 53% of its folate after only eight days. The researchers concluded that, despite the damage done to nutrients by heat processing, canned spinach may retain more of its nutrients than fresh spinach kept in the refrigerator for a few days (1).
Forgetting about the nutritional content for a second, let’s talk about taste. If you’ve even taken a bite of freshly picked apple or berry, straight from the tree, you’ll appreciate the difference in taste, both flavour and texture, when compared to regular produce you’d purchase on a shop at Coles or Woolies.
The only way to ensure true freshness of both flavour and nutrients is to get the produce from the farm gate, to your plate as quickly as possible.
This eliminates the waste generated by plastic packaging and cold storage of fresh food. If it's coming from paddock to plate, there's no need for an extended shelf life. Just natural food consumed at optimal freshness.
Plastic Packaging's Proliferation (aka The Convenience of Small Portions)
Recently the rise of single use plastic packaging has skyrocketed as a result of supermarkets pushing smaller and smaller, now single portion sizes. Just chuck it in the microwave and in two minutes you'll have a hot "home cooked" meal! As time poor, modern adults, we're being sold convenience at the expense of our health and the sustainability of the environment.
Instead of buying 5 or 6 steaks at a single time, cooking a couple up for tonights dinner, wrapping the rest in waxed paper and freezing for later consumption - we just buy the two steaks, already pre-marinated and packaged. We tell ourselves theres no need for wastage if we're consuming it tonight. We prioritise our own convenience over the cumulative damage that single-use plastics have on the environment.
How difficult is it to wrap up your leftover food and chuck it in the freezer for later consumption?
It's all about choice
The Foodlum War on Plastic Waste
Reducing plastic waste is a central cornerstone of our business, we plan to do this by:
- Getting produce from the farm gate to the plate as quickly as possible, eliminating the need to extend shelf life using plastic packaging
- Avoid unnecessary packaging of food, but when it’s needed use eco friendly paper based alternatives whenever possible.
- Encourage community buying
We'll continue to post more blogs about sustainable living and reducing our individual impact of plastic waste. Thanks for reading!
Here at Foodlum, we’re about community, authenticity and the passion of food. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.
Thanks for reading!
(1) Luke LaBorde, Srilatha Pandrangi. Storage time and temperature effects nutrients in spinach. Penn State University