Sample Annotated Bibliography Paper on Packaging

In this article, Ackerman examines the effect that different forms of packaging have in the US and Mexico, particularly in regard to the environmental impact of packaging as well as its impact on the preservation of food. Ackerman argues that there is “an inverse relationship between the quantities of food waste and packaging waste,” (1) because countries with a well-developed packaging industry tend to process food, and remove inedible parts at the factory to ensure that there is less wastage of food at the consumer end. In this case, packaging is desirable because it helps reduce food wastage in addition to helping in better food waste management, which can be composted or disposed in environmentally sound ways at the factory where the food is processed. However, despite the usefulness of packaging, only “some packaging is desirable” (2) considering that some of the packaging materials are toxic and end up causing a litter problem due to ineffectiveness of the recycling process, reducing the aesthetics of the lived environment. In comparing the lifecycle analysis of packaging in the US and Mexico, Ackerman found that in the US, “the greatest environmental problems associated with packaging arise in the process of manufacturing it,” (4) compared to its impact when disposing it, with PVC being the worst pollutant during the manufacturing process, while in Mexico it is “1.5 to 3 times as dirty,” (6) because of the dirtier power used and the inefficient recycling process characterized by landfill scavenging by people. This source helps inform the AB by providing a cross-country analysis of packaging pollution and proposes ways of reducing the pollution impact. This article is similar to Yuva’s and Hopewell’s in exploring the environmental impacts of packaging although this article differs by providing a cross-country analysis. It contrasts with Heist’s article, which extoll’s the virtues of packaging by concentrating on the negative impacts of packaging.

Menses, Montse, Jorgelina Pasqualino, and Francesc Castells. “The sustainable consumption of domestic products: the environmental effect of packaging.” Revista Internacional Sostenibilidad, Tecnología y Humanismo 4. 2009. Web. 12 March 2015

          Researchers Menses et al. posit that the modern consumer has an “awareness of the importance of maintaining the life-support systems of our planet,” (186) and hence there has been a drive towards instituting practices that help in sustainable development and mitigating the environmental impact of people’s activities. The packaging that is used by a manufacturer is influenced by among others the quality of the food, the amount of preservation needed, aesthetics of the package, marketing appeal and the ease of product identification. In their study, the authors compared the life cycle assessments (LCA) of four commonly used packaging materials in the beverages industry – glass, aluminum cans, tetra brick and plastics – with a view to determining “the effects of recycling the material as opposed to disposing of it in landfill” (187). In conducting the LCAs, the authors used an internationally certified methodology to trace the environmental impact of producing and recycling material that can be used to make one-little packages as opposed to producing and using landfills to dispose the materials. By comparing the calculated values for Cumulative Energy Demand (CED) and the Global Warming (GWP, kg CO2 eq) of recycling to those for using landfills, the authors found that “Recycling beverage packaging materials induces a lower environmental impact than disposing of such materials in landfills, for all materials and sizes compared,” implying that recycling of packaging materials should be encouraged. This paper proposes a solution to the packaging problem by presenting an empirically backed case for recycling. This paper is similar to the article, Environmental Impact of Glass Packaging, in its conclusions. It contrasts with Ackerman’s article, which gives the negative impacts of packaging by providing the beneficial effects of recycling.

Heist, Kristin. “How Packaging Protects the Environment.” Harvard Business Review 14     June 2012. 

According to the author, consumers who are concerned about their carbon footprint because “there’s a lot of bad and wasteful packaging out there” (n. pag) are opposed to the use of packaging. However, Heist argues that packaging is not as detrimental to the environment as has been assumed because the judicious use of packaging can dramatically reduce wastage of food by extending its shelf-life considering that “about a third of the food produced for human consumption goes to waste” (n. pag). The wastage of food due to spoiling has a far greater negative impact on the environment because it leads to the wastage of the land, water, energy and financial resources that had been used in its production. Although many people see food wastage as being benign because of its biodegradability, food production and transportation has a detrimental effect on the environment and wastage exacerbates this negative impact. Heist provides practical examples, where packaging can help to reduce wastage like using special sealed plastics to package beef, “which is one of the most environmentally harmful foods we eat,” (n. pag) and significantly extending its shelf life from three to twenty-one days. The same is true for packaging of milk using Tetra Pak, a simple process that dramatically increases the shelf-life of milk by up to nine months and eliminates the need for refrigeration hence saving on the energy needed to preserve milk. This informs the AB by elucidating the advantages of packaging to the environment, giving practical examples of the advantages of packaging. The article is similar to Ackerman’s but adopts a simplified approach to advancing the need for packaging, one that can be understood by anybody. It differs from Buxbaum’s take on packaging by focusing only on the positives of packaging, without examining some of the negative effects of packaging.

Environmental Impact of Glass Packaging, Recycling Positive: Study. Solid Waste & Recycling 27 September 2010. Web. 13 March 2015

          This article summarizes the findings of a study done by the North America glass container industry which conducted a unique “cradle-to-cradle life cycle assessment (LCA)” (n. pag) as opposed to the usual cradle-to-grave LCA to determine the environmental impact of the manufacture and recycling of glass. The study examines what benefits using cullet (recycled glass) has on the environment by adopting a holistic approach to determine the correlation between manufacturing, transporting, and recycling of glass and the environment. One of the criticisms for using glass containers in packaging is that “transportation of glass bottles has more of an environmental impact because of the weight of the containers,” (n. pag) hence other packaging materials that do not require specialized transportation should be preferred. However, the article argues that in assessing the impact that a packaging material has on the environment, it is prudent to “consider the environmental impact of raw material extraction, production, transportation and end use treatment” (n. pag) because ignoring the environmental impact of each of these processes is likely to give a biased picture. Unlike other packaging materials, “Glass containers are endlessly recyclable” (n. pag) in addition to being made from only natural ingredients, making them the most suitable packaging materials considering that they also maintain “the flavor and shelf life of foods and beverages longer” (n. pag) than any other packaging material and are unlikely to leach toxic substances to the stored food. This article proposes a solution to the problem by providing empirical evidence for the environmental benefits of using and recycling one of the most ubiquitous packaging materials –glass. This article is similar to Menses et al.’s in averring that recycling is beneficial to the environment. It contrasts with Ackerman’s by not providing the negative effects associated with recycling.

Goossens, Ronald. “Good design can reduce the environmental impact of packaging.” Prevent Pack (2009). Web. 13 March 2015 < 

Goossens states that packaging does not only have a negative impact on the environment because food that “would otherwise end up in the garbage bin prematurely if it weren’t for protective packaging” (1) is preserved hence helping to substantially reduce the amount of food wasted. One of the problems associated with packaging is over-packing where manufacturers “take a too conservative approach in their choices” (1) when choosing the right packaging for their products and hence put more packaging material than is absolutely necessary to protect the material from the risks that it is likely to be exposed to. Consequently, products have too much packaging and hence there are increased production and environmental costs because the excess packaging material has to be manufactured, transported and disposed eventually. To help mitigate the environmental impact of packaging, it is important for “product design needs to consider the packaging” (2) so that the packaging that is needed for a product can be substantially reduced while still fulfilling the main functions of packaging, “protection, use, transport, and commercial support of the product” (2). Goossens states that when considering the design to be used for a product, it is necessary to take into consideration the packaging needs at the design phase because good designs often produce robust products that do not need a lot of packaging. In addition a well-thought out design “can assist in making a product more user-friendly and in avoiding product loss” (2) in addition to improving product aesthetics and identification. The article informs the AB by explaining how the environmental impact of packaging can be reduced through designs that reduce wastage of packaging material. The article is similar to Gardiner’s in advocating for the reduction of packaging. However it contrasts with the Consumer Council’s press release on Excessive packaging, where it notes that manufacturers and retailers are actually using more packaging, especially during festive seasons.

Gardiner, Beth. “The Side Effects of Consumerism: Large Producers and Retailers Cutting Back on Packaging.” New York Times. 19 November 2014 Web. 

In this article Gardiner reports on a trend in the packaging industry, where “more companies, mindful of the environment and their bottom lines, are scrutinizing their packaging and cutting the excess,” (n. pag) helping to reduce the amount of packaging material that is used and hence that needs disposing. When companies use lighter packaging for their products, there are “fewer raw materials to buy and lower shipping costs” (n. pag) reducing the environmental impact of the lifecycle of the packaging material, in addition to reducing the product cost component due to packaging. Keeping in mind that the “environmental impact of producing packaging is greater than the impact of getting rid of it” (n. pag) reducing the amount of packaging used has a wide ranging effect on the reduction of environmental degradation the efforts by companies to reduce the amount of packaging used should be applauded. The drive to reduce the amount of packaging used has been taken to the design phase where companies have “redesigned glass and plastic bottles” (n. pag) such that they can carry the same volume while using less material. Designers I the packaging industry are now putting more thought into the development of packaging materials that  “have more than one life,” (n. pag) reducing the need to always use new packaging when packing products. In addition, there is an increasing effort to produce biodegradable packing material, helping to turn packaging from a problem to a resource, for example, for use in compositing. This informs the AB by providing ways through which the use of packaging can be substantially reduced. It is similar to Goossens in that it focuses on how design can reduce packaging waste, but also differs by also focusing on the design of the raw materials used in the manufacture of packaging. This article contrasts with the Consumer Council’s press release on Excessive packaging, where it notes that manufacturers and retailers are actually using more packaging, especially during festive seasons.

 Buxbaum, Marisa. “Persistent Plastic.” Inspiration Green. (n. date). 

Buxbaum presents an interesting info graphic on the environmental impact of manufacturing different types of plastics that shows that PVC has the worst environmental impact “primarily because of carcinogenic emissions” (n. pag), which make it dangerous to manufacture, use or recycle. Although there have been efforts to recycle plastics, only a small portion of the plastics that are used are ever recycled, and hence “plastic that has ever been produced is still in existence” (n. pag) collecting in landfills and polluting water bodies due to its extreme non-biodegradability. PVC is one of the most widely plastics and in the food industry, it is used to make cling wrap, squeeze bottles and cooking oil containers, where it poses a health hazard to consumers due to its tendency to leach into food. A considerable tonnage of PVC is disposed every year in the US, but only a minuscule amount is recycled mainly because of “the nasty additives,” which make recycling extremely hazardous. Polystyrene, a material that is usually used to manufacture “fast food containers, disposable utensils and plates, insulation, and packing materials is also another plastic whose ubiquitous use exposes consumer to health risks because benzene, a component of polystyrene, “is a known carcinogen,” (n. pag) and tends to leak out of the packaging if it comes into contact “with hot or oily foods.” Buxbaum argues that the number of ecologically damaging packaging materials is very high and proposes that there should be more emphasis in encouraging “plant-based eco-packaging” as a means of reducing packaging pollution. This article solves the packaging problem by providing specifics on the health hazards associated with the use of different plastics and proposes the use of eco-packaging. This article contrasts with Goossens’ and Menses’ articles by providing information on the human health risks of plastics and stating that the recycling of packaging may be much less than is generally assumed especially for specific plastics like PVC.

Excessive Packaging May Pose Adverse Environmental Impact. Consumer Council. (18 March 2013). Web. 

  In this press release, the Consumer Council raises concern about the continued “Excessive packaging of consumer products,” (n. pag) which is rampant especially during the festive season despite the increased awareness on the negative impact that packaging has on the environment. Excessive packaging was noticeable in popular gift items like “chocolate, sweet treats, biscuit, pastry and noodle,” (n. pag) which were garishly and excessively packed to attract the attention of consumers, leading to increased production of packaging waste considering that the packaged products were among the fastest moving goods. Among the excesses in packaging that the council identify are “use of excessive packaging materials for auspicious designs,” “use of bigger than needed container to store the content,” in addition to using “multiple layers of packaging materials” (n. pag). Consequently, the products produced extra waste in addition using extra packaging materials, which impacts on the cradle-to-grave chain of the packaging material increasing its cost component and environmental impact. Manufacturers have to strike a balance between attractively presenting their products and ensuring that they take into consideration the environmental impact of their packaging because after using the product, consumers must dispose the packaging. There is need for consumers to stand up against the wasteful packaging practices adopted by merchants by declining to buy excessively packaged products, which often have a price premium for recovering the cost used for the packaging. This article informs the AB by providing information on how merchants and manufacturers use excessive packaging. This article is similar to Gossenn’s and Gardiner’s in addressing the issue of excessive. It contrasts with Gardiner’s article by finding that contrary to believe, excessive packaging is still widespread.

Yuva, John. “Trends in Environmental Packaging.” Inside Supply Management (2003): 18-24. Print.

For an organization, packaging serves many purposes, but packaging should not meet only an organization’s needs because one cannot “think of packaging without thinking of its effects on the environment.” (18) We live in a world where it will be impossible to completely do away with packaging, and hence it is more productive to think of how companies can adopt environmentally friendly packaging initiatives rather than chasing the unrealistic target of completely banning packaging. Yuva posits that in the US, there has been a decline in pressure on manufacturers to adopt environmentally sound packaging practices because of a realization at the official level “that it was extremely costly” (18) for the authorities to enforce the myriad standards on packaging they had set. When introducing new standards in an industry, vigorous monitoring and enforcement is necessary if the regulations are to be adhered to, and that high levels of compliance are achieved. However, there are serious cost challenges with mounting an effective monitoring and enforcement operation considering that most public services are being rolled back in the wake of fiscal constraints that have led to the prioritization of public expenditure. Although packaging regulations are loosely enforced in the US, the author cautions that manufacturers catering to an international market must be cognizant that “packaging laws are different from country to country,” (19) and hence supply management must acquaint themselves with the different regulatory regimes to avoid incurring heavy recycling payments. The article informs the AB by examining how a legal and regulatory framework affects packaging practices. This article contrasts with Gardner’s and Ackerman’s articles because it focuses on the legal and regulatory aspects of the packaging industry.

Claudio, Luz. “Our Food: Packaging and Public Health.” Environmental Health Perspectives 120.6 (2012): 232-237. Print.

In an ordinary day, an individual comes into contact with food packaging right from the breakfast table in form of “cereal from a paperboard,” (232) to lunch in “canned tuna and a plastic bottle of water,” (232) all through to a “baked chicken and frozen broccoli” supper by which time a consumer will have used and disposed of a number of food packaging material. The ubiquity of packaging in the food industry is such that it cannot be avoided, and although there are concerns about the impact of packaging on the environment, it as a fact that “packaging does much more than simply hold a product” (232) and cannot be easily eliminated from the food chain. The past decades have demonstrated the benefits of packaging as packaging has been instrumental in improving “food safety by alleviating bacterial contamination” (233) in addition to appreciably increasing the “shelf life of products,” (234) something that has enabled the distribution of food further and reduced wastage due to spoilage. Ideally, materials that come into contact with food should not have “have any technical effect in such food,” implying that packaging should be neutral and not add anything to the food it packs. However, research is increasingly showing “that chemical components from packaging can migrate into foods,” (234) altering the composition of the food in addition to having potentially harmful effects to the heath o consumers. The health effects of some of the chemicals that leach into food are just beginning to be understood with debate currently raging on the safety of using packaging “containing bisphenol A (BPA)” (235). This article informs the AB by providing a medical perspective on the effects of packaging and the safety of consumers exposed to packaging chemicals. This article is similar to Buxbaum’s in focusing on the dangers of chemicals leaching from packaging and into the food.

Thompson, Richard, Charles J. Moore, Frederick S. Vom Saal and Shanna H. Swan. “Plastics, the Environment and Human Health: Current Consensus and Future Trends.” Philosophical Transactions B 364.1526 (2009): 1973-1976. Print.

Thompson et al. argues that the spread in the use of plastics is because they are “inexpensive, lightweight, strong, durable, corrosion-resistant materials,” (1974) in addition to being moldable into different shapes and sizes hence making them attractive for use in the packaging industry. Consequently there has been an explosion in the quantity of plastics manufactured, and virgin polymers are mixed with “additives to improve performance,” (1974) making plastics very versatile. However, despite the versatility of plastics and their derivatives, there are”finite resources for plastic production,” (1975) and there are concerns about the quantities of plastics that “have accumulated in the natural environment and in landfills,” creating a significant pollution problem. The plastic debris that is disposed and is not recycled not only “causes aesthetic problems,” (1975) but also is hazardous to wildlife through ingestion as well as being a hazard to maritime activities like fishing and tourism. Ingestion of plastics presenting a serious problem for wildlife health especially for wildlife species that “mistake them for their food” (1975) leading to higher rate of ingestion and the consequent complications like “impaired movement and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers and death” (1975). Other than wildlife, research is showing that plastics have a detrimental effect on human health and health problems in humans may be due to “chronic low-dose exposures,” or through “acute exposure to higher doses” (1976) of poisonous chemicals that are present in plastics calling for the need to adopt degradable polymers in packaging (1976). This article informs the AB by analyzing the environmental impact of packaging on both wildlife and humans. It contrasts with Buxbaum’s and Claudio’s articles by examining the effect packaging has on wildlife.

Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application. US Food and Drug Administration  January 2010.Updated November 2014. Web. 13 March 2015 < 

The recent past has seen an upsurge in research to determine how food interacts with the packaging material and there has been worrying findings showing that “small, measurable amounts of the packaging materials may migrate into food,” (n.pag) and these materials are then ingested with the food. The ingestion of packaging materials raises the inevitable question about the safety of packaging materials and the effect that the ingested materials are likely to have on the health of consumers. There has been raging debate on the use of bisphenol A (BPA), which is a” structural component in polycarbonate beverage bottles” (n. pag) in the packaging industry after some studies showed that BPA had potentially detrimental effects to the neural development of fetuses. This raised fears that mothers using products with BPA could potentially pass the compound to the unborn child leading to retarded development. This article is a summary of a review of approximately three hundred studies done by the FDA experts from such areas as “toxicology, analytical chemistry, endocrinology, epidemiology,” (n. pag) among other fields, to determine whether BPA had an immediate negative impact on consumer health. The review found that humans were able to rapidly “metabolize and excrete BPA” (n. pag) in an inactive form such that internal exposure to BPA was minimized, implying that the he compound did not pose as grave a health risk as had first been thought. Considering that people are exposed to low doses of BPA, a preliminary study by the FDA has found there are “no effects of BPA at any dose in the low-dose range,” (n. pag) hence the use of BPA-based packaging is safe. This article informs the AB by demonstrating the safety of packaging through a toxicological study. It contrasts with Ellis’ article by arguing that fears of packaging poisoning are misplaced.

Boseley, Sarah. “Concerns over Chemicals in Food Packaging Misplaced, Say Scientists.” The Guardian 19 February 2014. Web. 13 March 2015 < 

The author focuses on the recent controversy that has surrounded the packaging industry with some environmental scientists and campaigners raising the red flag over the possibility of “synthetic chemicals in packaging and plastic bottles contaminating food and drink,” (n. pag) while other scientists have dismissed such fears as alarmist and misplaced. There is n doubt that some of the material of the packaging migrates into the food, mixing with it and is eventually ingested by the consumer. However some scientists have pointed out that the amount of packaging material that leaches into food is minuscule and that there is “little evidence of danger” to consumers using packaged foods due to “the very low levels of contamination in food and drinks” (n. pag). There is concern that some of the dangers due to packaging are overstated, especially the focus on formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, which although found in packaging materials is in significantly low quantities compared to naturally occurring formaldehyde “in some foods,” for example apples. To demonstrate the relative safety of packaging, research shows that for an individual to consume the equivalent amount of formaldehyde present in a 100g apple, a person must drink “at least 20 liters of mineral water that had been stored in PET [polyethylene terephthalate] bottles,” (n. pag) showing that it is much safer to drink packaged water than eating an apple. Although there are fears that endocrine disruptors like BPA can cause cancer, “packaging protects food,” and the benefits associated with packaging of food outweigh the dangers. This article informs the AB by providing relatively balanced information on the current challenges facing the packaging industry, vis-à-vis health considerations. It contrasts with the Bisphenol A article by suggesting that packaging poisoning fears may be valid.

Hopewell, Jefferson, Robert Dvorak , Edward Kosior. “Plastics Recycling: Challenges and Opportunities.” Philosophical Transactions B 364.1526 (2009): 2115-2126. Print.

The authors state that the use of plastics has been steadily increasing over the years especially because “various routes for the production of polymers from petrochemical sources” (2116) have been discovered, leading to the formation of a wide variety of plastics with different properties. Currently, “plastics are almost completely derived from petrochemicals,” (2117) making current production processes and usage patterns unsustainable in the long term considering that oil and gas resources are finite and half of all the manufactured “plastics are used for single-use disposable applications.” The mass manufacture of plastics is a relatively recent phenomenon and the problems associated with the use of plastics are just beginning to be understood, especially as regard to their disposal. Although the longevity of plastics in the environment is not known with certainty, generally, “plastics are not biodegradable,” and even those that are considered   degradable may linger in the environment for sometime “depending on local environmental factors,” (2118) which determine the physical factors and micro-organisms available for the breakdown of plastics. There are many approaches that can be used to manage and minimize the waste that is associated with the use of plastic packaging including use of landfills, incineration and energy recovery, downgauging, that is “reducing the amount of packaging used per item,” (2120) re-using of plastic packaging, recycling and use of alternative materials, for example biodegradables. Recycling is one of the best ways of managing waste considering that most thermosetting plastics can be recycled and recycling reduces “oil usage and emissions of greenhouse gases associated with the production of the virgin polymer” (2124). This article informs the AB by providing a detailed insight into the economic and ecological benefits of recycling as well as the challenges and opportunities inherent in the recycling industry. It contrasts with Ackerman’s article by arguing that recycling is safe.

 Ellis, Marie. “Food Packaging Chemicals ‘may be Harmful to Human Health.” Medical News Today 20 February 2014. Web. 13 March 2014 < 

In this article, Ellis summarizes some of the findings of a scientific study that contends that people are being routinely exposed to harmful synthetic chemicals, which come into contact with food through the packaging used. Although the authors of the study Ellis summarizes indicate that exposure to the harmful chemical is low, “it is chronic, as many of us eat such foods throughout our lives,” (n. pag) raising safety issues especially as regards to the build-up of toxins in the body over the long term. Although there is ample research showing the levels of toxicity of most harmful chemicals, the knowledge on the effect of chronic low-level exposure on human health is fuzzy and scientists specializing in “developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis (DOHaD)” (n. pag) may provide useful information on the dangers of chronic exposure. One of the human health hazards due to packaging is the exposure of people to known toxicants, for example formaldehyde, which is present in “plastic bottles used for carbonated drinks” (n pag) in low concentrations. Additionally, chemicals which disrupt the production of hormones like “bisphenol A (BPA), tributyltin, triclosan and phthalates” (n. pag) have been found in packaging materials and leach to food raising concerns about the developmental effect they may have on people. Considering that there are thousands of chemicals used in the manufacture of food packaging materials, the authors of the study express concern that there is a paucity of toxicological information on the “potential cellular changes” (n. pag) that all of these chemicals are likely to cause individually or in concert. This article informs the AB by providing an alternative perspective to the effects of packaging chemicals on human health. The article contrasts with Boseley’s by indicating that packaging materials are unsafe as opposed to the general sentiment that they are safe and that there are knowledge gaps that need filling.

 Schrenk, Dieter. “Literature Report on Food Packaging Materials and their Potential Impact on Human Health.” Technische Universität Kaiserslautern April 2014. Web. 14 

The author states that food packaging materials (FPMs) play a significant role in reducing the “risks related to microbial or chemical degradation of the food,” (2) by providing a barrier to the entry of microorganisms that would otherwise contaminate the food and lead to a degradation in quality. FPMs can be based on plastics, paper and cardboard, metals and glass, which is one of the safest FPM because it does “not require any plastic layer to protect the food,” (4) and hence lacks any organic matter making its all-natural components “toxicologically irrelevant” (4). Whenever food comes into contact with the packaging material, some of the packaging material migrates into the food, and may be eventually ingested by the consumer. Schrenk classifies the material migrating into food into two categories; “intentionally added substances (IAS),” which are derived from the components used to manufacture the FPM, and “no-intentionally added substances (NIAS),” (4) which are substances that are not intentionally used in the manufacture of the FPM or may be part of the FPM that is not to be in contact with the food. Plastic, paper and cardboard, and metal based FPM all have an organic component, with paper and cardboard, and metal based FPMs usually coated with plastic polymers to prevent “the transfer of chemical compounds between the food and the outside world,” and “corrosion/reaction with the food” (7) respectively. Therefore the safety of supposedly non-plastic packaging materials is suspect since these FPMs are actually not plastic free. This source informs the AB by providing information on the probability of FPM migration for each of the major packaging materials by providing comparison of the efficacy of each of the materials. This article adds to the work of Ellis and Thompson et al. in expanding the literature on the health hazards due to leaching of FPMs.

Song, John, Ronald Murphy, Rasvith Narayan, George Davies. “Biodegradable and Compostable Alternatives to Conventional Plastics.” Philosophical Transactions B 364.1526 (2009): 1227-1240. Print.

The authors state that there has been a proliferation in the type of materials that are used in packing with a majority of these packaging materials entering the “municipal waste streams at the end of their service life,” (1228) contributing significantly to the problem of waste. The tonnage of solid waste produced has been increasing gradually with packaging waste accounting for approximately “one-third of all municipal solid waste,” (1228) implying that there is an urgent need to address the management of packaging waste. The environmental concerns caused by packaging has led to the development of a vibrant recycling industry but “recycling rates for most plastic packaging remain low,” (1228) mainly because the plastic polymers used in manufacturing packaging materials are often filled with different processing additives, get contaminated during use making “ recycling uneconomic compared with disposal in landfill” (1229). The problems associated with the recycling of plastic packaging materials have led to the drive to adopt biodegradable polymers, which are materials that can undergo “decomposition into carbon dioxide, methane, water, inorganic compounds, or biomass,” in the packaging industry to reduce the negative impacts packaging has on the environment. The adoption of bioplastics has been hampered by their comparatively higher costs, but this is likely to reduce as “critical mass is achieved” (1232) and product quality, performance and cost improve. Unlike ordinary plastics, biodegradable polymers can be broken down by microorganisms, but this should be done in controlled compositing because when placed in landfills, they have the “potential to release methane under anaerobic conditions.” This article contributes to the AB by showing how biodegradable plastics can be used and provides a tentative life cycle assessment for the cradle-to-cradle and cradle-to-grave use of biopolymers. This article is different from the preceding articles because it focuses on the emerging field of biopolymers, providing a novel way of managing packaging waste beyond the usual recycling mantra.

Frienkel, Susan. “Trace chemicals in everyday food packaging cause worry over cumulative threat.” The Washington Post 17 April 2012. Web. 13 March 2015. < 

In this article, Frienkel presents the findings of a study that was carried out on five San Francisco families who were put on “a three-day diet of food that hadn’t been in contact with plastic,” (n. pag) which showed that the urine levels of bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate DEHP reduced by two-thirds and a half within that period. These findings are a confirmation of the long held suspicion that plastic packaging is the main source of these harmful chemicals to the body and that reducing intake of food packaged in plastics can reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body. Authorities are aware that chemicals can migrate from packaging and into food in small amounts and the FDA “has approved more than 3,000 such chemicals for use in food-contact applications,” (n. pag) which it has judged to be safe based on models estimating the amount of chemical that can end up in a consumer’s plate. If the models predict that a substance will only be available in trace amounts in the food, it is presumed safe and no further testing of the substance is necessary. However, emerging research is slowly piecing together “the cumulative impact of chemicals at minute doses,” and the findings are worrying painting a picture of a well-regulated safety regime for food, which is coupled with unsafe packaging. Mapping the type and quantity of chemicals that leach into food is extremely difficult due to the “limited information collected and disclosed by regulators,” (n. pag) as well as obstruction by a packaging industry that views information about packaging components as proprietary information. This article contributes to the AB by exploring the difficulty in policing harmful substances in packaging. The article is similar to that of Ellis as it raises valid questions about the dangers of chronic exposure to small quantities of known toxicants.

Recycled Packaging, Energy Efficiency have Biggest Effect says Consumer Study. The Independent 3 September 2011. Web. 13 March 2015. < 

This article is a summary of the findings of a consumer perception study that was done “by digital analysts Nielsen and polled 25,000 internet respondents in 51 countries,” (n. pag) to collect the views of consumers on the use of packaging and production of energy-efficient products. The consumer is at the center of the packaging industry and any initiative to change the packaging trends must take into consideration the views of the consumers. Manufacturers will adjust their packaging, in size and quantity if consumer sentiment favors the change, because manufacturers and merchants are mainly interested in pleasing consumers and enticing them to purchase their products. The survey found that 83 percent of the respondents felt that those companies “producing energy-efficient products and using recycled packaging,” (n. pag) had a positive environmental impact, showing that consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of packaging. In addition, the survey found that consumers were aware of over packaging waste and had a “positive perception of recycled materials,” and hence were inclined towards using recycled materials. This provides an opportunity for retailers and manufacturers to exploit this emerging market and gain a competitive advantage by focusing on the use of recycled products in their packaging. In addition, the positive perception that consumers have about recycled materials can be used by activists to bring changes in the packaging industry by promoting the use of products from companies that have “recycled and environmentally friendly packaging.” This article contributes to the AB by showing that efforts to control packaging waste are not elitist, but are supported by the ordinary consumer, making the initiative sustainable in the long term. This article differs from the rest because it examines consumer perceptions on recycling and packaging efficiency and not the academically proven benefits of environmentally sound packaging practices.

Food Packaging Wastes and Environmental Impacts. n.d. Web. 

This article provides an overview of packaging industry, cognizant that the rising “environmental consciousness in recent decades,” (24) is leading to the questioning of the way of life of consumers and the effect that individual practices have in the environment. The article intimates that packaging contributes to a significant amount of the waste produced in households and in industry, implying that it is not only “packaging that requires alterations but also our lifestyles and habits of consumption,” if we are to manage the increasing packaging waste problem. The rise in the use of disposable beverage bottles has led to the use and disposal of approximately 2.5 million plastic bottles, of which “less than 3% are recycled” in the US creating a huge waste problem. Despite the problems that are associated with packaging waste, packaging is needed to provide “a physic al barrier between a product and the external environment,” “prolong the life of food,” (29) to ensure that there is “safe and efficient transportation,” of products as well as “provide customers with information and instructions,” (30) which may be legally required. Therefore, packaging is very important in the lifecycle of a product and cannot be safely omitted from the lifecycle of most products. The packaging materials used in the packaging industry include paper, glass, aluminum, steel, plastic and newer composite materials that are “more resource and energy efficient,” in comparison to packaging utilizing only single materials. When choosing packaging materials, it is important to consider the disposal aspect of the materials with the aim of reducing “unnecessary packaging.” This article contributes to the AB by, providing an overview of the packaging industry and proposing solutions that can be used to address the waste problem that goes beyond recycling. The article is similar to Goossens’ and Menses’ in providing solutions to the packaging problem but goes further than advocating for only recycling by suggesting that re-using and reducing the amount of packaging can serve to protect the environment.

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Food Packaging Wastes and Environmental Impacts. n.d.

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