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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Peak Oil and Packaging

The way we package our products has been transformed in the last 50 years, previously, cardboard & paper were used to dispense goods purchased. This wasn't too much of a problem for non food items but with the advent of supermarkets and the need to extend shelf life plastic packaging was the miracle that allowed the explosion in consumption of foods transported thousands of miles around the globe. It is only fairly recently that this behaviour was questioned in mainstream thinking, plastic carrier bags, once the epitome of convenience, have come to represent the changing attitude of our society towards plastic packaging. The enormous amount of waste that this packaging generates is astonishing. Go to http://www.wasteonline.org.uk/ for some waste wacky facts! One of the reasons that this level of waste has become unacceptable (other than running out of places to bury things) is the sustainability of the practice of converting something as irreplaceable as crude oil, into throwaway plastic packaging.

Oil is a finite resource and we are rapidly approaching a time (possibly already passed it) when we shall consume more oil than we discover, this is called the point at which oil supply has reached it's peak. As you might imagine this is not terrific news for a society that has been formed on the assumption that oil will always be plentiful and cheap. To combat the wastage problem the plastics industry have produced recyclable plastic packaging, this is reducing the plastic ending in landfill, however the energy required to recycle, particularly when you allow for collection costs, means we are still using up more oil energy to keep our food fresh while it is transported, displayed and sold. A relatively new alternative is now available which is the production of packaging from sustainable resources such as corn starch. However even this  welcome introduction is not a long term panacea.
 As the global population increases over the coming decades using land that could be used for growing food to grow packaging does not make much sense, and also you still need to use some form of energy to constantly replace the disposed of packages. So maybe the answer is the sourcing of food much closer to home which will eventually mean that we can dispense with disposable packaging altogether and begin a much more sensible practice of reusable packaging.

Anyway back to the short term, we are pleased to announce that the foods that you purchase from Jolley's Kitchen will always be supplied in sustainable corn starch tubs and bags. These containers are not as strong as plastic equivalent so care must be taken with carrying them and they do not microwave! but they are compostable. Unfortunately the local councils are, as yet, not in a position to take them in the Green waste collections, so you will need to use your own, or a friends, compost heap.

If you have any views on the future for food packaging you can leave a comment below


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