pantry food in flexible packaging
Family & Parenting

How Parents Can Reduce Waste With Flexible Packaging

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This post is sponsored by Perfect Packaging; however, all opinions are my own.

Today’s parents have concerns about the environment. We all want the best future for our children, including a healthy planet. Making sure we make the most sustainable choices each day for a lasting impact has become a top priority. Today I am sharing how flexible packaging can help.

What is flexible packaging?

Flexible packaging is a method of packaging where a package or part of a package’s shape can readily be changed when filled or during use.

Flexible packaging uses a variety of materials, including foil, plastic, and paper. These are used to create pouches, bags, liners, and other flexible product containers.

Some flexible packaging that you’ve likely seen (and bought) include applesauce pouches, bags of chips, juice pouches, bags that enclose dry cereal, yogurt squeeze pouches or tubes, and even bags or pouches of laundry detergent.

The opposite of flexible packaging, of course, would be rigid packaging. Rigid packaging does not easily change its shape, taking up more space and requiring more resources to create. This type of packaging is seen with glass jars, metal cans, plastic bottles and even stiff cardboard boxes.

How does flexible packaging reduce waste?

The most zero-waste option would be to use nature’s original packaging – the shells, peels, and skins that are supplied by nature to protect our fresh foods. However, sometimes we need another option for more long-term storage — and that’s where flexible packaging comes in.

Less food is spoiled

The typical American family throws away between 40-50% of fresh food that is purchased. While we can all make conscious decisions to buy and use appropriate amounts of foods, we can also benefit from materials that help our food last longer.

Reducing food waste has been a major goal to help protect our environment for many years. Today, about 1/3 of food waste in the United States is from cooking or serving too much, and about 2/3 of food waste is from food spoilage. We actually toss out about 1.3 billion tons of food every year! Yikes!

By extending the shelf life of food, one of the greatest impacts flexible packaging has is helping the U.S reduce food waste – both in store and at home.

baby in high chair holding food pouch

Less resources Used to manufacture flexible packaging

In addition to reducing food waste, manufacturers are able to use fewer natural resources to create flexible packaging. The manufacturing process also uses the least amount of packaging necessary to protect and preserve products as they travel from farm to factory to home.

Reduced materials and resources needed to produce flexible packaging means less material waste overall!

Less landfill waste and gases

Those pouches and bags that keep our food sealed do more than just make food storage and transport convenient. They help to extend the shelf life of our food, reducing the overall amount of food wasted each day.

Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gases as well as methane gases at landfills. By reducing food waste, we in turn are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfills.

Flexible packaging manufacturers are also able to reduce landfill waste by reducing manufacturing scrap that is wasted. Much of the waste material is able to be reused in new types of flexible packaging, or is turned into other products like plastic flower pots.

boy with snacks in flexible packaging

What is the footprint of flexible packaging?

When looking at the full life cycle of packaging materials, flexible packaging uses less energy to manufacture and transport than other types of packaging. Because flexible packaging materials are more lightweight and can be more tightly packed than rigid packaging (think of transporting cans of soup!), there is less space needed and lower transport costs.

Flexible packaging also produces less product waste and sends less material to landfills. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel usage, and water usage are other benefits we see from flexible packaging.

Can flexible packaging be recycled or reused?

In the United States, about 50% of flexible packaging is able to be recycled. This can be done through in-store drop-off programs. You may be familiar with grocery bag recycling, but plastic film (such as dry cleaning bags and wrap around paper towels and diapers) are recyclable too! There are currently 18,000 locations that accept plastic bags and film in the US and Canada, and likely a location near you.

Some of the other types of flexible packaging, like those with different layers of materials, are currently more of a challenge with today’s technology and the infrastructure of recycling facilities. However, research is ongoing to help discover recycling solutions for these materials.

For my local readers, there is actually a program in Cobb County call the Hefty® EnergyBag® program. This program collects previously hard-to-recycle plastics at curbside and converts them into valuable resources. With continued success, we will hopefully see more of these programs in the future!

woman and man eating convenient snacks with flexible packaging in nature

How can parents help?

Parents can help make a greater impact in the environment and our children’s future by collectively taking a few simple actions:

Consider purchasing products with flexible packaging when shopping.

When nature’s original packaging isn’t an option, go for products using flexible packaging. Opt for items such as yogurt, soup, applesauce, and laundry detergent that come in bags and pouches versus those in jars, cans, and rigid plastic containers.

Work to reduce your own food waste at home

Try meal planning to avoid over-buying foods. Purchase only as much fresh produce, meat, and dairy that your family can consume before it expires. Freeze items such as bananas, berries, and yogurt tubes before they over-ripen or expire.

At meals, encourage family members to serve smaller portions at first, then go back for seconds if they are still hungry. Plan to eat leftovers for lunch or have a “DIY/clean out the fridge” dinner once a week to use up food.

brother and sister sharing snacks on a couch

Reuse flexible packaging when possible

Here are a few ideas for ways to reuse flexible packaging at home:

  • Use pouches and bags as a trash receptacle in your car
  • Create a “greenhouse” by covering seedlings and plants with pouches
  • Use as packaging (DIY bubble wrap) when mailing packages
  • Use clean bags and pouches to organize spare screws, nails, buttons, craft supplies, puzzle pieces, etc
  • Use larger bags such as laundry pod or dishwasher pod bags, or even plastic wrap around diapers, as a small trash can liner

Recycle flexible packaging when possible

Check your area for locations to recycle flexible packaging. No locations near you? Use your voice to bring community awareness and see if you can get recycling started in your area.

For more information on flexible packaging, visit the Perfect Packaging website.

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