Sustainable packaging in food and drink industry

Sustainable packaging in food and drink industry
© Timothy Masters, image #62126544, 2017, source:
Materials, Waste, Carbon
Food processing, Wholesale and retail
High cost
Resource savings: Waste:
Less material is used which means less waste is generated and less landfill
Co2 emission reduction:
Lightweighting results in reduced transportation and thus improved fuel efficiency
Premises and operation areas:
Product and design, Supply operations, Waste and recycling
Size of company:
Micro (less than 10), Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250), Large (more than 250)
What is in it for you:
Reducing the environmental impact of packaging while contributing to sustainable design and saving resources.
Descriptive information:

Packaging is a major part of the food and drinks sector. As awareness grows of the need to minimise the environmental impact of packaging throughout the product life-cycle, innovative companies are looking to ecodesign principles for improvements. 

One area of improvement is to reduce packaging weight, in terms of material used per unit, without compromising on function, safety or quality. 'Lightweighting' like this is a long-established means of reducing both the environmental impact of packaging and food waste. 

Other sustainable packaging practices generally include:

  • Bulk packaging - the unit size of raw material packaging being delivered to the food manufacturer e.g. reusable container with a 1 tonne capacity for margarine rather than smaller consignments in cardboard cartons, or procuring flour in tankers rather than 25 kg sacks
  • Refills - refillable packaging can be used several times, e.g. a more recent development is the use of lightweight refills
  • Returnable packaging - returnable secondary and tertiary packaging combined with lightweighting efforts in tertiary packaging; e.g. using less stretch and cling film (made of low-density polyethylene plastic) can cut packaging waste material in the food and beverage manufacturing sector
  • Packaging using recycled material - optimising the quantity of recycled material used in packaging can have a significant environmental benefit; it is reported that for every 1 000 tonnes of recycled glass used to produce new glass containers 345 000 kWh of energy, 314 tonnes of CO2 and 1 200 tonnes of raw materials are saved
  • Bioplastic packaging - a partially renewable source which helps to reduce dependency on fossil fuels

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