The production of food packaging is conditioned by the consumers' purchasing decisions, and this trend will increase in the future, according to the technician of the packing line of the Ainia Luis Gil technology center. The substitution of plastic for cardboard will continue to increase, he added.
European and Spanish regulations openly bet on decreasing packaging in all links of the food chain to be more environmentally sustainable and to improve the percentage of items recycled. This will translate into a higher tax burden for plastic and its prohibition for some foods.
At the moment, the packaging and agri-food industries are temporarily affected by important price increases and even a shortage of plastic, cardboard, glass, and carbon dioxide used for modified atmosphere (ATM) packaging. "It's possible that things will return to normal after this Christmas season ends, in January or February," Gil stated.
For years, the international trend has been positioned against packaging. However, there was a hiatus in this trend due to the pandemic: the demand for packaged food increased because people felt packaged products were safer, even though different studies have confirmed that sales in bulk were not a contagion factor of the coronavirus, he stated.
"Unfortunately, Spanish consumers are not well aware of what a container entails because they receive too much information that they don't know how to analyze. According to different studies, they are very confused and don't really know what is biodegradable, recyclable, or compostable,” he added. The people who are most involved in recycling are basically women over 45, Gil said. People under 15 years of age are also very involved in recycling thanks to the incorporation of knowledge about waste management in school content.
In the future, sustainability is going to be a key factor in packaging and food packaging will become a key marketing element for consumers to choose a product.
The trend in Europe is to produce bioplastics from food by-products or compostable and recyclable materials for food pods. Ainia has several lines of research for the production of biopolymers from juice remains, beets, urban solid waste, pruning remains, nuts, dried fruit shells, or whey cheese, he stated.