The use of single-use plastics in packaging has grown significantly in the last decades, and with it, the pollution of our environment. There is an urgent need to improve the sustainability of our food systems, which includes also the development of more sustainable food packaging. The objective of this study is to identify and examine successful examples and approaches to food packaging in the EU and beyond, considering consumer safety, environmental, economic, social, legal and food waste reduction considerations.
The analysis is based on the principles of a circular economy (reduce-reuse-recycle) and its scope is limited to business-to-consumer operations. Through a careful examination of legislative and sectoral trends at the European and national levels, an extensive literature review and interviews conducted with experts, 19 successful examples of sustainable food packaging have been identified and divided into 5 categories: Prevention/reduction of (over)packaging, Reuse, Recycled Content, Alternative Materials and Active/Intelligent Packaging. Furthermore, the analysis has resulted in the identification of several recommendations for the various actors to foster more sustainable food packaging.
Overall, the priority should be given to measures and actions reducing (over)packaging and packaging waste, further supporting reusable packaging by setting binding reuse targets at EU level and other economic instruments and promoting the uptake of recycled, renewable and innovative materials that achieve genuine environmental benefits and avoid burden shifts.