This Is Plastics: Farm to Table: Five Ways Plastics Help to Feed the World

Environment

Farm to Table: Five Ways Plastics Help to Feed the World

From farm to table, plastics make our food systems safer, more affordable and environmentally friendly.

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Global food systems are increasingly complex, and a number of recent issues—like the COVID-19 pandemic and growing geopolitical instability—have complicated how consumers worldwide gain access to nutritious food. In nearly every step of the food production, transportation, retail and consumption processes, plastics promote food product safety and affordability—all while lessening greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Learn five ways plastics help to feed the world:

Plastics promote food safety

Plastics are hygienic and safe, especially for applications that require contact with food. In fact, plastic food-grade packaging can prevent cross contamination and bacterial growth by protecting food from the external environment. Ultimately, plastic packaging makes it easier for people around the world to have access to fresh food and can help decrease foodborne related diseases, especially in developing nations.

Plastics prevent food waste

In the global food supply chain, plastic packaging extends the shelf-life of foods for consumers. At the grocery store, plastic packaging preserves food freshness, which reduces food waste by nearly tripling the amount time a fruit or vegetable remains suitable for consumption. Even at home, plastic packaging reduces food spillage and waste by maintaining perishables and ensuring families get their money’s worth by keeping groceries fresher for longer periods of time.

Plastics advance food accessibility and affordability

Plastic food packaging is more affordable than glass or aluminum alternatives, translating into cost savings for consumers. Plastic packaging for food and water is especially critical for consumers living in rural areas and food deserts. Populations living in rural or remote areas are more prone to food insecurity because the transport of food supplies and water can be costly and time intensive. Thanks to plastic packaging, vulnerable populations can gain access to essential food supplies at an affordable price point.

Plastics help reduce food system emissions

Plastic food packaging is more affordable than glass or aluminum alternatives, translating into cost savings for consumers.  Considering the average U.S. meal travels about 1,500 miles from farm to plate, efficient and sustainable transportation is a key component of modern food systems. Plastic packaging is lighter, easier to transport, less energy-intensive to produce and less likely to break during transportation than alternatives like glass and aluminum. Since plastics are also lightweight, they result in fewer emissions than alternative materials. Lighter shipments increase fuel efficiency for trucks and aircrafts delivering products to far-off destinations. In fact, up to 40 percent less fuel is used to transport drinks packaged in plastic bottles compared to glass bottles.

Plastics are key to food preparation

Plastics are essential in many utensils, tools and kitchen appliances, enabling affordable access to critical food preparation tools for a broad customer base. Plastics are also found in the kitchen because they do not conduct electricity and are heat-resistant, allowing the material to provide safety across a variety of preparation and cooking applications.

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