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An Overview Of Plastic Packaging And Its Numerous Benefits

By Bryan Low

Plastic packaging has been around for tens of years. Convenient, cheap and versatile, plastic packaging comes in handy for preserving the freshness of food by removing all the oxygen within the packaging, thus extending the shelf life of the product. However, in spite of the fact that many argue the effects of plastic on the surrounding environment, one thing is for sure: this type of packaging is widely used all over the world, not only in the food industry but also for storing electronics and many others.

What makes plastic the perfect material for creating durable and reliable packaging is precisely its versatility and adaptability, as it can be easily manipulated in order to accommodate a variety of needs – it benefits regulators, consumers, marketers and recyclers alike. The increased awareness regarding the importance of recycling plastic and waste has lead to a large number of recycling plants where these types of packaging are re-used: in other words, the plastic does not get wasted, it becomes remodeled and it can be re-used for an indefinite period of time. Plastic is very adaptable, and it can come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and colors, and it can serve different purposes.

Perhaps the most advanced type of plastic packaging is the plastic polymer packaging, the polymer being basically a combination of resins that are believed to be not only friendlier with the environment, but also safer to use in the food industry. Throughout the years, the use of plastic for packing the food has been intensely debated, as it is known that some chemicals and compounds from the packaging can be transferred to foods and liquids when the plastic is heated. This should not be the case with plastic resins used for packaging, as they tend to be safer.

What Are The Different Types Of Plastic Polymers For Packaging?

There are many different types of resins that are used for creating packaging, and each type has its own identification code used to indicate the type of plastic resin used for manufacturing the packaging in question. Having said that, the most commonly used type of resin is the polyethylene terephthalate (PET), followed closely by high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), polyvinil chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP) as well as polystyrene (PS) and other similar types, every single type of resin having its own benefits and downsides, depending on its application area.

What Are The Most Notable Benefits Of Plastic Polymers?

As mentioned earlier, plastic resins are generally considered to be safer and more beneficial, not only for the food industry but for all the other adjacent industries as well. Plastic polymer packaging is also widely used in the pharmaceutical and the drug industry but, just like the plastic used for food packaging, it must be thoroughly inspected and FDA-approved in order to make sure that it is entirely safe to use. Some of the aspects that are taken into account when evaluating the quality of the plastic resins (polymers) include their overall appearance, the ease of opening and resealing, their cost, the greenhouse gas emissions and many others.

In order for a plastic polymer to be considered useful and suitable, it must be able to allow the buyer to bring home more product, with less packaging. It must be lightweight, strong and durable at the same time, and it must also be very versatile and easy to cast into numerous shapes. Also, the modern plastic packaging should be easy to manipulate, it should create fewer CO2 emissions that take their toll on the environment and they should also consume fewer resources – the world is heading towards a more eco-friendly industry, one that preserves the natural resources and does not harm the environment. Statistically speaking, one pound of plastic packaging can reduce the amount of food waste by up to 1.7 pounds.

How Safe Is Plastic Packaging For The Food Industry?

This type of packaging plays a vital role in delivering a safe and sterile food supply, as well as for prolonging the shelf life and slowing down the bacterial growth in most edible products. In the US, it is the duty of the FDA to evaluate and regulate the safety of plastic packaging that comes into direct contact with food. Plastics have always played a pivotal role in developing smart, cost-effective and eco-friendly solutions, and the plastics industry is continuously changing and improving itself.