FMCG sector ‘very conscious’ of microplastics in packaging – Food Manufacture

A new study by Aquapak – which surveyed 100 UK packaging experts responsible for packaging R&D, technology, design and sustainability for FMCG brands – highlights the growing levels of concern over the use of plastic packaging by businesses and the impact of microplastics in oceans, waterways and living organisms, including humans.

According to the study, 37% of respondents said that they are extremely concerned about microplastics and a further 63% said they are quite concerned. Meanwhile, 84% said there should be much tougher regulations to help kerb the introduction of microplastics into the environment.

A further 92% said they plan to stop using plastic in their consumer packaging altogether and move to more paper-based materials, but only 28% expect to achieve this goal by 2029.

Of those surveyed, 86% said that their business is prepared to spend more on packaging to improve sustainability and end-of-life outcomes which, ultimately, will reduce the risk of microplastics being released into the environment. Taking a longer-term view, 25% expect their business to increase its investment in packaging material with better recyclability.

Microplastics are plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter that result from both commercial product development and the breakdown of larger plastics. In the last 40 years, concentrations of these particles appear to have increased significantly and, as a pollutant, microplastics can be harmful to the environment and animal health.

Dr John Williams, chief technical officer at Aquapak, said: “Microplastics are one of the most problematic consequences of plastic in the environment. The truth is that we are only just starting to fully understand the damage they are causing to the food chain and the long-term effects they will have. Our research shows that the FMCG sector is very conscious of the problem, but the pace of change remains slow.

“New packaging materials such as Hydropol, an innovative polymer developed by Aquapak, already exist which do not harm the environment when they come to the end of their useful life and still provide the functionality and product protection needed. In the case of Hydropol, it breaks down without the formation of harmful microplastics.”

In other news, Heineken UK has announced plans to relocate its headquarters to a new site in Edinburgh.