As of January 1, 2009, supermarkets in Catalonia will charge for the plastic bags where the food purchased is kept until it is placed in the refrigerator or kitchen shelves. It is a measure that aims to reduce the number of plastics that pollute the environment and that takes hundreds of years to decompose. The consumer will weigh between buying the plastic bags or carrying the food in the typical shopping bag, as was done in the past. When the payment of the bag is once, the consumer will think that a few cents is nothing. But every day, they do add pennies.
The problem of plastics does not reside solely in the bags to take home the food. If we buy food in a supermarket, it is practically impossible to buy food in bulk free of packaging, all or almost all of them are placed in airtight plastic bags or in trays wrapped with plastic. This packaging is necessary to keep food in good condition for longer. This leads to the fact that, in houses that separate plastics from glass, paper and organic matter to recycle waste, the plastic bag is the most bulky. Imagine the amount of plastics that pollute the environment as a consequence of such a high number of plastics that, in many homes, they are not separated for the container that will take them to the recycling process.
This problem does not leave researchers or agri-food industrialists indifferent. Edible packaging has been under investigation and applied for years. They are made with polysaccharides from potato starch, corn gluten, and other vegetables. Chitosan, a derivative of chitin that is obtained from the shell of crustaceans and that has the advantage of helping in the elimination of aquaculture residues, is being studied, at the same time that an added value product is being produced. These containers may contain antioxidants and antimicrobials, vitamins, and minerals., as well as improving the integrity of the product, retaining the flavor and, in addition, reducing the cost of the container. It is applied mainly to fruits and vegetables.
The other trend in food packaging is that of smart packaging that reports the integrity of the packaging and the quality of the food. They use nanoparticles, antioxidants, antimicrobials; nanoparticles containing specific aromas, flavors, or dyes. This allows food companies to program a drink according to the desired color or flavor.
Fortunately, with new trends in food packaging technology, more effective packaging can be achieved, containing healthier food for longer, using fewer preservatives. The new smart packaging is light and therefore manageable; they can be opened and closed again, after taking the food ration; they carry a security label to guarantee their authenticity; It is possible to heat food or finish preparing it in its container, both in the microwave and in the oven; there are them that cool or heat, according to the food, themselves; They can contain digits that indicate the time required for the food they contain to cook.
Let’s hope that with the new contract food packaging technologies we can help conserve the environment and our descendants enjoy it.