Last week, I wrote about a potential innovation in plastics manufacturing. This announcement deserves additional context to communicate what the breakthrough could mean to consumers, the economy, and the environment.
Recent technological advancements in plastics development and manufacturing are helping to transform a critical sector of the economy: food packaging.
Molecular-level innovations have led to the creation of plastics that are lighter, stronger, more flexible, and more durable than their predecessors – making them ideal for transporting, storing, and preserving food.
Take a cucumber, for example. It lasts about three days on a store’s shelf without packaging. But wrapping that cucumber in a tiny amount of advanced plastic packaging can extend its freshness to two weeks and result in less food waste.
Other plastics industry innovations – including ExxonMobil Chemical’s Exceed mPE and Enable mPE metallocene technologies – are helping to reduce spoilage, increase access to food, and improve food safety for consumers worldwide.
Because, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, one-third of the food produced in the world each year goes to waste.
That’s staggering and depressing on many levels.
Preserving that food could help end global hunger and reduce costs for billions of the world’s poorest. It could also reduce environmental costs from the huge quantities of agricultural supplies produced that simply don’t get eaten.
Better packaging can help even before food gets on the shelf. Advanced plastic packaging reduces total product weight and allows more products per shipment, fewer trucks on the road, less gasoline and energy used, adding up to fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
A new report quantifies some of these benefits. According to Trucost, in a study commissioned by the American Chemistry Council, the environmental cost of using plastics in consumer goods and packaging is nearly four times less than with alternative materials such as tin, glass, aluminum, or paper. (See one example from Trucost’s study nearby.)