During the month of November world leaders gathered in Glasgow for the COP26 conference on climate change. This was seen as a critical summit for securing strong commitments from all nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Governments have endorsed the Glasgow Climate Pact and made new pledges on limiting the effects of global warming. https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/cop26-heres-what-countries-have-pledged.

In the last few years, we have noticed extreme weather conditions on a global scale, like heatwaves accompanied by devasting wildfires, floods, and extended drought periods. “Extreme events are the new norm,” said Prof Taalas (Secretary-General of World Meteorological Organization), “there is mounting scientific evidence that some of these bear the footprint of human-induced climate change.” In 2020, in the United States of America a record amount of twenty-two separate weather and climate related disasters took place resulting in high damage costs of $1 billion or more per disaster.

In 2015 with the Paris agreement a target of capping the global warming to 1,5 ℃ above pre-industrial levels was set. Currently we have global warming measured at 1,1 ℃ above pre-industrial levels. Eighty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the G20 bloc of countries with China the biggest polluter. It will take a massive global drive with the cooperation from all countries to prevent the further rising of global warming. To meet the target, global emissions must fall by 45% from the 2010 levels by 2030. By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero level.

What is the impact of global warming?

Even at the level of 1,5 ℃ above pre-industrial level certain countries will be under water. Between 2013 and 2021 sea levels rose by 4,4mm. Should the global temperature rise by 2 ℃

above the pre-industrial level a third of the world’s population would be exposed to extreme heat, which will lead to low crop production and threat to food security. This situation will cause malnutrition and large-scale hunger to the population.

The unpresented lockdown measures due to the COVID pandemic resulted in a drastic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. “To understand what is driving changes in the atmosphere, we must consider how air quality and climate influence each other,” Joshua Laughner (Postdoctoral fellow at Caltech in Pasadena, California). Carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 5,4% in 2020.

What can we do to reduce the effects of global warming?

– Switch to greener power, encourage renewable resources of power like wind

– Electrify transport

– At home use solar panels or heat pumps for energy

– Change lifestyle habits

– Reduce consumption and waste (one third of food produced never gets eaten)

– Move from linear economy to circular economy

A wide variety of food packaging is available on the market. Traditionally the bulk of plastic packaging was manufactured by factories from fossil fuels which generates large volumes of greenhouse gas. Lately newer plastics are plant-based, made from corn or sugarcane, and are considered renewable resources. Packaging accounts for an estimated 5% of the energy used in the life cycle of a food product. Approximately two thirds of packaging in the packaging industry is required for food packaging.

Plastic pollution is a major negative factor influencing the health of our planet. Especially single-use food packaging has filled up landfills, clogged waterways and destroyed marine life. The current lifestyle of convenience has outweighed the consequences of an unhealthy environment. It is important to re-think food packaging where human health and a better environment takes priority over convenience. Over time plastic can break down into smaller pieces called “microplastics.”  Humans are ingesting these microplastics when eating or drinking water. Greenhouse gas is released at each stage of the plastics’ life cycle, from production to disposal. Thankfully, governments and stakeholders have realized the situation and have implemented policies to ban the use of certain single-use plastic items like plastic bags, straws, and cutlery. The time packaging material takes to degrade is determined by the type of packaging material.

Unfortunately, food packaging has impacted on the environment on many levels which as a result has had an influence on climate change.

Water and Land Pollution:  large amounts of plastic litter has accumulated in our river systems.  It is predicted that in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. Microplastics in the soil have found to be detrimental to earthworms as the degrading plastic pieces release toxic chemicals.

Birds and Marine Mammals: marine life often mistakes floating pieces of plastic as food. A study done by Ocean Conservancy “Fighting for Trash Free Seas:  Ending the flow of trash at the source” found that 25% of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world had plastic in their systems.

Air Pollutions: Food packaging not recycled, either end up in a landfill or get incinerated. In both cases air emissions are released including greenhouse gas

How is food packaging contributing to restoring the planet?

– Moving towards a low-carbon circular economy. Re-designing packaging by improving the recyclability of the product. It is important to consider the impact the choice of raw material and manufacturing process has on the environment.

–  Reducing waste. Not only is it sad to see how much food is wasted while so many people go hungry, but food waste in the landfills creates methane gas which adds to global warming. Improved packaging solutions to keep food fresh for longer and to extend the shelf life of food will reduce food waste. Ambient, long shelf-life solutions enable regions where food security and storage are a problem to keep and have access to food for longer.

–  All the links in the supply chain need to be visible and traceable. Global food systems are responsible for over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Through transparency companies can access the supply chain for issues like deforestation, act and improve overall sustainability. To identify opportunities to replace virgin material with post-consumer recycled content. Biopolymers can replace traditional plastics made from fossil fuel.

In conclusion, we have made progress in developing alternative packaging options for the eco-sensitive consumer. Going forward a lot of work needs to be done to achieve the goals set out by the UN, governments, and environmentalists. At Multi-cup Solutions we are aware of the impact of packaging on the environment and have taken the responsible decision to extend our enviro-friendly range. We are also currently investigating the latest trends to align ourselves with global commitments within the packaging industry.