Polythene film is one of the most lightweight and durable packaging mediums
available. As a result, its use has grown significantly over the last 40 years. Some
might view this increasing usage as a cause for alarm, however there are certain
little known facts about polythene film and plastic packaging that need to be
considered before any conclusion can be reached:
- A 2004 study in Canada showed that to replace plastic packaging such as polythene film with alternative materials would consume 582 million gigajoules more energy and create 43 million tonnes of additional CO2 emissions. The energy saved each year by using plastic is equivalent to 101.3 million barrels of oil or the amount of CO2 produced by12.3 million passenger cars.
- Plastic packaging makes an important contribution to reducing food spoilage rates.
In the Western world, where the use of products like polythene film is
commonplace, only 2% of food is spoilt before it reaches the consumer. This is
compared to a rate of 45-50% in developing countries where little or no such
packaging is used. Food spoilage not only creates public health issues but is
detrimental to the environment as food rotting in landfill gives off methane -
a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more effective than CO2.
- Typically, ten times as much energy goes into the production of the food and goods
contained by plastic packaging than goes into the packaging itself.
- Plastic packaging accounts on average for just 1% of the weight of food
it protects. Using another, heavier form of packaging would bring with it increased
transportation needs and subsequent vehicle emissions.
- Polythene film can now provide the same high levels of protection as other
packaging mediums but can be produced using significantly less raw materials.
- Plastic packaging is continually being reduced and minimised. Carrier bags are one-third
of the thickness they were in 1990 and the average weight of a stretch film used to
wrap a pallet of goods is now 350 grammes compared with 1400 grammes of shrink film 10 years
ago. These thinner products employ technical innovation to offer the same
strength as their thicker predecessors but create significantly less waste.