The future of food packaging was discussed by Michael Thews, member of the German Bundestag federal parliament and Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and Myriam Rapior, member of the board of the German Federal Conversation Society during the KOSTBAR food debate led by Dr. Ing. Sabine Eichner, managing director of the German Frozen Food Institute.
“The frozen food industry uses 80% cardboard packaging, and the share of plastic packaging has remained constant for years, despite rising sales volumes. A current challenge is the avoidance of composite packaging. The aim is to use as much as possible, recyclable materials with 95% paper base,” revealed Eichner.
There are social developments that lead to an increase in the volume of packaging in recent years. One reason for this: the trend towards more single households and the food-to-go mentality. Additionally, young people are taking to the streets to advocate for climate protection – and ecological awareness has increased. But the individual often does not make consumer decisions in terms of sustainability.
“Ecological awareness does not yet translate into sustainable and low-packaging consumption,” noted Rapior.
To raise consumer awareness about sustainable packaging, Michael Thews suggests: “We need a single label to help consumers recognize sustainable and climate-friendly packaging. For this purpose, existing, well-known eco-labels such as the Blue Angel should be further developed.”
With the new Packaging Act, the federal government has set stronger incentives for the use of recyclable, single-grade packaging to increase recycling rates in the long term.
“Waste prevention comes first and is anchored as a priority objective in the Recycling Management Act. In addition, recycling rates in the Packaging Act have been increased, creating incentives for the economy. The standardization of packaging and packaging materials is a suitable approach to higher recycling rates, as different packaging materials cannot be recycled together,” says Thews.
Thews went on to say he hopes to see more industry initiatives that develop sustainable packaging and sees policies as a responsibility to support such initiatives.
Moreover, the debate revealed a number of trade-offs in food packaging: packaging protects food, but at the same time it requires resources and must be disposed of. Packaging prevents food waste by prolonging shelf life but is too often non-recyclable. To this end, superfluous packaging should be avoided, even if at the same time, it fulfills an advertising or informational function and help differentiate between products to foster competition.
“We cannot just ignore these conflicting goals. It is important that all stakeholders participate and work together in the development processes: consumers as well as manufacturers, packaging material producers, trade, environmental organizations and politics,” Eichner concluded.
Pictured above (from left to right): Myriam Rapior, member of the Board of the German Federal Environment and Nature Conservation Union, Michael Thews, member of the German Bundestag, Dr. Sabine Eichner, managing director of dti, and Ute Welty, freelance journalist at Deutschlandradio Kultur.