Understanding the role of plastic in the fo... - Healthy Eating

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Understanding the role of plastic in the food industry.

Jerry profile image

Hi everyone,

As this is very topical I think it's good to understand why plastic is used so extensively by the food industry. In the US they use enough cling film in a year to wrap Texas. Cling film is mostly single use as it clogs the recycling machines.

Obviously ready made sandwiches need to be kept fresh and plastic does this as it is see through so I can see its attraction to the food industry. Plastic extends the shelf life of food helps it travel better and saves a lot on food waste and methane which's a byproduct of food waste.

But we have to do something to stop us being a throw away society and I wonder if in years to come we will be seen as the bubble wrap generation...

Here's a link about the role plastic plays in the food chain from the IEEP:


And here's how the plastic industry see their products:


Apparently the food plastic industry is in no hurry to change as they see plastic waste as saving food waste and it works for them. We have the TidyClub who advocate leaving as much plastic behind with the shops as possible and I for one am noticing just how much plastic is used just to display everyday non consumable items.

I think the first step is being aware of our actions as yesterday one local shop has started stocking vegetable and I bought a lovely fresh locally grown cauliflower that came in a cardboard box with the others and from the supermarket I bought some baby parsnips for a roast and they are in a moulded plastic tray and then sealed in plastic.

300 million tons of plastic are used each year and 8 million tons are being thrown into the ocean:


Food for thought. 😊

32 Replies

Hi Jerry I think your absolutely right I used to buy water in plastic bottles but have got a water canister and hub fitted a water filter in the mains tap so no more buying it I do think most the stuff packaged now is unnecessary years ago you went to green grocers and had paper bags and you took your own bag to take it home I defiantly wouldn’t care if my lettuce and cue are not wrapped also why don’t they make it all recyclable I did see the programme that showed all the plastic in the oceans made me very sad I also think attitudes need to change on rubbish I see people all the time just throw their rubbish on the floor one guy parked he’s car and chucked all mc Donald’s out on the pavement then drove off I’ve seen mums let their kids drop crisp bag sweet rappers on floor if you go to other countries it’s spotless Austria for example there wasn’t a sweet wrapper in sight sorry for my rant I know I have a long way to go but on I’m more aware I’m trying 😀

Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to Grannysqua

Hey Grannysqua you are right, it's the price we pay for global markets coupled with our daily consumption of ready made sandwiches meals including and then there's the plethora of coffee's available in disposable cups.

I think some peoples attitude to litter is very thoughtless and inconsiderate, we also seem to suffer from over flowing waste bins which also needs addressing.

Jerry 😊

Grannysqua profile image
Grannysqua in reply to Jerry

Yes I agree and I’m a stingy old so and so I never buy coffee out when I get it for free indoors it drives my hubby mad I think the prices are ridiculous and I don’t pay it 😀

I recently moved areas one had black bags and recycle that was it I’m now in an area where I get a food waste bin this has reduced the black bags as all the food waste goes in bags that are biodegradable and we get a cardboard bin to it’s great 😀 I’m looking at stopping the wet wipes as I use these for g kids and make up but I think I just get a good old fashioned flannel have a great day 😀

Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to Grannysqua

Hi Grannysqua you are funny saying that you are a stingy old so and so LOL. I don't think you are at all it's different generations I'm surprised by how so many people embrace debt but we are encouraged to just wave a piece of plastic and pay later...

I moved recently and we have separate containers for paper/cardboard, plastic, glass, I have a green garden waste bin and a black rubbish bin plus I have a compost bin. I generate very little waste and am now trying to be more aware of my choices.

You have a great day now and your reply made me laugh... 😀

Grannysqua profile image
Grannysqua in reply to Jerry

I’m glad I made you laugh it’s good to have a cackle now and then lol you are very efficient Jerry well done I’m getting better 😀 it’s so funny me and hub went to a different supermarket than Lidl or Aldi where I normally shop today and I was like I’m not paying that it’s 30 p cheaper in Lidl I was saying that for most things around the shop my hub was like well we have to live and we not in Lidl but I still begrudge paying more I think I just feel like I’m being ripped off it’s like if I go to the pics I never buy popcorn or sweets and drink I take my own in my trusty ruck sack ! Anyway have a great eve sorry late reply been busy all day 😀

Cooper27 profile image

It's a tough one. I grew up with this being the way of the world, and we learn from those around us that it's normal.

Now someone has pointed it out to us, you do start wondering why we ever thought it was ok to throw away 4 toothbrushes a year, every year for 60-70ish years, that won't disintegrate for centuries. That's just the tip of the iceberg! But like I say, it was just what we considered normal.

I'm making an effort to cut our waste now, but there's a balancing act at the moment. There aren't alternatives available for everything, and some of the alternatives are just not budget friendly (beeswax wraps for example). So I guess I'm with you, but just with "reasonability" caveats!

Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to Cooper27

Hi Cooper I think that many of us feel the same as we encouraged to buy and use plastic without any thought to its disposability as it was seen as cheap and cheerful...🤔

Grannysqua profile image
Grannysqua in reply to Cooper27

Hey I didn’t know that about tooth brushes although I do use my old ones for cleaning 😀

Hi Jerry

I've read the first and second articles.

My view is that plastic still needs to be reduced contrary to what the food industry say. Firstly, my local council will not collect any plastic pots, they only take milk bottles and plastic water/fizzy pop bottles. Therefore if I buy say a pot of humus they won't collect the cleaned empty pot. They say I can take all other plastics to my local recycling centre which is roughly 20 to 30 minutes drive. Therefore they are happy for me to clog the atmosphere with emissions1🤔

Also, cucumbers, broccoli and swedes do not need to be shrink wrapped, potatoes do not need to go in plastic bags, neither do carrots. I worked in a fruit and vegetable shop when I was a teenager and all produce was delivered in wooden and cardboard boxes and paper sacks.

I do not agree with what the food industry say, there is overuse of plastic. Also councils need to wake up and recycle more.

Thank you very much for sharing.

Jerry profile image

Hi Alicia, it was on the morning news that Burger King and MacD's were going to stop giving away plastic toys with children meals and the presenter casually said that the plastics industry are in no hurry to change, (it is there livelihood)

And you are so right we all want to get our act together over this. 😊

Zest profile image

Thanks for sharing this information Jerry - definitely food for thought.

Zest :-)


Thank you kindly for info, Jerry. 🙏 😌

An eye-poppingly, worrisome concern. 😳 😧


"Plastics" must be in the zeitgeist. 😯 . . . We recently received "5 Healthy & Sustainable Food Storage Alternatives to Plastic" email link ( foodrevolution.org/blog/saf... ) — if of supplemental interest.

Found these types of alternatives (‘eco friendly produce bags’) a possibility for loose fruit & veg produce to bring to grocers (in place of plastic bags):

. . . • amazon.co.uk/s?k=eco+friend... , amazon.com/s?k=eco+friendly...

(Interesting reading the 1st-hand experience pros & cons of these types of bags via reviewers comments 📝 — cashier/ checkout encounters, wash-ability/ reuse-abilty of bags, cost-effectiveness, etc..)

Maybe . . . for those handy with needle ‘n thread 🧵 (and/or access to sewing machine & swatches of cloth), perhaps we can sew our own produce bags? 🤔 🤷‍♂️


[It’s been so long — I’ve no clear memory 💭 of what we used to use in past, before plastic wrap (cling film, bags, … ) became ubiquitous. Vague memory of firm moulded paper/ cardboard-like materials holding produce (berries) covered with cellophane ( en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cel... ) held on with elastic/ rubber bands? Paper bags of varying sizes & weights/ strength depending upon types of produce (loose fruit/ veg) being ‘bagged’? Bakery goods/ breads in paper and or waxed bags or folded cardboard-like boxes of varying sizes? For ‘cling plastic’ wrapped items, we’d carefully peel off the plastic film & try to fold it somewhat ‘neatly’ 😄 ☺️ to reuse it whenever needed (covering food going in fridge, etc.). And, of course, the containers, paper bags, elastics, etc. all got re-used for variety of household purposes. When the packaging was eventually discarded, don’t know how biodegradable these items actually were?! 🤷‍♀️ 😳 🤦‍♂️ . . . Perhaps they’re still decomposing (buried deep in some piled high rubbish heap, somewhere on the planet) decades later!! 🤯 😧 😳 . . . (Oy vey! Brain hurts 🧠💥 just thinking about it. 😳 🙃 )]

☺️ 🙏 🍀 🌺 🌞


Kai-- profile image
Kai-- in reply to Kai--


Aside — somewhat related (eco-friendly, non-waste, recycle ♻️ theme):

We’ve been trying to figure out a way to make our BAKED SWEET POTATOES 🍠 (& regular potatoes 🥔 ) without having to use our usual wrap of parchment paper & aluminum foil. Not only resource saving (cutting down on use of aluminium foil & parchment paper paper 📜 waste), but money💰 saving as well.

Any ideas most welcomed/ appreciated. 🙏 😌

[We’ve tried baking (sans wraps), steaming, boiling, but the results (tastes 👅 ) just aren’t the same — especially with the sweet potatoes 🍠 . Whatever ‘magical ✨ , mysterious ✨ alchemy’ ⚗️ that happens beneath that parchment paper/ aluminium foil wrapping (tucked away in the toaster 🔥 oven for a time) that makes the sweet potatoe sooooo delicious/ flavourful 😋 , we’ve been unable to replicate by other methods. 😦 🤦‍♂️ . . . Any ideas 💡 / tips welcomed to avoid routinely using/ wasting parchment paper & aluminum foil. 👍👍 Thank you kindly for any suggestions. 🙏 😌 ]


Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to Kai--

Hi Kai-- when I bake potatoes/sweet potatoes, I bake on an oven shelf so you get really good air circulation getting resulting in a lovely baked skin and a soft fluffy inside. 😀

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Kai--

I'm guessing the tinfoil encourages steam, so you might get the same effect by steaming them on the hob for 10 minues, then transferring to the oven to finish off. That should also reduce the oven time too, saving your fuel usage.

We were told to rub baking potatoes with a small amount of oil before cooking, which could also be worth trying. I don't do it myself, so can't vouch for the results!

Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to Cooper27

Hi Cooper you re right the tin foil keeps the skin softer but more importantly a lot of caterers do it as they stay hot for a lot longer.

I personally like them crispy and don't rub oil or salt on them but it would give them extra flavour. 😊

Cooper27 profile image
Cooper27Administrator in reply to Jerry

Yes, I prefer crispy too! We tend to microwave for about 8 mins and finish in the oven for the crispy skin, but reducing energy use.

I also sometimes cook sweet potatoes to use the insides, so I pop the skin back in the oven for 10 mins to get a nice crisp-like snack and reduce the food waste!

Kai-- profile image
Kai-- in reply to Cooper27


Excellent! 👍👍

Thank you kindly, Jerry/ Cooper27. 🙏 😌

Will be experimenting 👩‍🔬 🧪 🧫 with both your ideas 💡💡 .

Hoping 🤞to save rolls 🧻🧻 of Aluminum & Parchment 📜 . [Perhaps even an A&P supply factory 🏭 (or 2) will have to shut down based on our household’s decline in use alone. 😯 😂 ]


Like idea of crisp sweet potato 🍠 (& regular potato 🥔 ) skins! 😋 . . . Sounds like a ‘crisp’/ ‘potato chip’ — sans (excess) salt /oil. 😋 . . . Thank you, both. 😌 🙏

[We eat whole baked potato (skins & all) & even whip/ whizz 🌀💤 the whole baked sweet potatoes 🍠 (skin & all) in blender drinks/ smoothies 🍹. Can sound yuck 😝, but actually quite tasty 😋 — depending what else we blend in (bananas 🍌 , dates, greens 🍃 🥬 , frozen berries 🍓 … ).]


deejames profile image
deejames in reply to Kai--

Spray of oil and some coarse salt. Never any need for foil. It's an environmental dis aster.

Kai-- profile image
Kai-- in reply to deejames


Agree, deejames — ‘environmental disaster’ 😳 🤦‍♂️ . . . 👍👍

For those of us with difficulties with Salt/ Oil/ Sugar (SOS 🆘 google.com/search?as_q=SOS+... ) though, we have to tip-toe 👣 — ever so gently — when it comes to SOS. 😯

For folks without SOS issues, a spritz of oil & a sprinkle of salt 🧂 may be no prob. 😌

Much appreciate your thoughtful suggestion, deejames. Thank you. 😌 🙏 🍀 🌺 🌞


sunny369 profile image
sunny369 in reply to Kai--

I am rather interested in these eco friendly produce bags, thanks Kai

Kai-- profile image
Kai-- in reply to sunny369

[Very welcome, sunny369. 🙏 😌 ]

They do look neat! 😃 👍👍

Am thinking a "make-our-own eco-friendly produce bags" (out of lightweight material, zipper or pull string . . .) would be far more economical/ affordable for those of us on a budget? 🤔


Oh . . . deejames recommending reusable Beeswax 🐝 Wraps (below) got me poking around ( google.com/search?as_q=bees... ) to find the wraps (to use in place of wasteful, 1-use only, cling film).

The pre-made beeswax wraps are pretty pricey 💰 😳 🤯, but understand them to be long lived (~ a year); yet, still more economical in the long run than cling film? 🤔

Anyhoo, saw "how to make beeswax wraps" videos ( google.com/search?as_q=how+... ) that might be a fun project for ‘Do It Yourself-ers’ who enjoy making things (& saving money, as well as the environment). 👍👍

Quickie 1-minute video shows "How To" DIY Beeswax Food Wraps:

: m.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ85F...


☺️ 🙏 🍀 🌺 🌞


sunny369 profile image
sunny369 in reply to Kai--

I never use cling film but I do use food bags occasionally. I think the beeswax might present an alternative to that as I imagine food might not dry out too quickly wrapped in it. Do you think you can wrap cheese in them? I can see I really need to give up these plastic food bags completely, there really is no excuse for it :)

Not sure I am the crafty type who could make my own though :)

Kai-- profile image
Kai-- in reply to sunny369


Fantastic, sunny369! 😃 . . . Have you recommendations/ tips on the types/ styles of eco-friendly food bags that work well for you? 🤔

(Think when we start to use items ‘in real life situations’ we begin to notice — over time — subtle pros & cons based on our 1st-hand, ‘real world’ experiences.)


Yes, can wrap cheese 🧀 in beeswax wrap according to the many wrap products (& reviews) I’ve been looking at. 👍👍


[There’s so many options of beeswax wraps — an abundance of choice (different shapes, pre-cut sizes/ rolls, ‘ingredients’, ... 😯 . . . It’s difficult to narrow down which wraps to try. 😳 . . . Have been reading reviews to try & get a sense of the actual pros & cons of the various types/ styles of beeswax wraps — which ones work well (cling best, lasts long, most economical, etc.).

Per usual, it’s a time-consuming ⏳ ⌛️ challenge sifting through reviews trying to “separate the wheat 🌾 from the chaff“ 😯 as far as opinions go. It seems a “roll of the dice 🎲 🎲 “ finding quality items based on reviews from a wide variety of opinions that diverge in preferences, tastes, assessments ... 😳 🤦‍♂️ ]


Hmmm . . . 💡 . . . Will ask deejames.

deejames , if you’re still around (& if you’re comfortable noting), are there particular types/ brands of Beeswax Wraps that you’d recommend based on your experience?

. . . • Ones good for wrapping cheese 🧀 ?

. . . • Ones with good cling, long-life with repeated use, etc.? 🤔

Thank you kindly for any experiences/ insights you’re comfortable sharing, deejames. 😌 🙏 🍀 🌺 🌞


No need to use cling film at home. Bees wax wraps are much better. Try to avoid products wrapped in cling film if possible and complain and agitate at supermarkets and shops

Love this post...

Attitudes need to change...some people are amazing but some less so.

I made a comment on another site about plastic slow cooker liners...used to make it easier to clean,a slowcooker. I couldnt believe they even exist because lets face it, how easy is it to wash a slowcooker?

Well over half the commenting people attacked me as a planet saving do gooder and said these plastic liners were going on their next shopping list! I was stunned by this and really realised what a long way there is to go to change attitudes....it beats me how people can be so unmoved when you see the news, documentaries etc about plastic. Makes me want to do more to improve but sadly that attitude isnt reaching everyone

Great post, keep up the great work

Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to Franglaise

Thank you Franglaise. I believe that we should be aware of these things and then we can make intelligent decisions.

The 3 links I posted were the IEEP the plastic industry and save the oceans as I wanted to present it from different perspectives.

You are very right about changing others attitudes and yesterday there were world wide protests on climate change as some people are very worried about the consequences of our actions on the planet.

As for plastic slow cooker liners some plastics leach, estrogenic chemicals in plastics into the food...🤢

Please see:


Being a foodie I'm very keen on us knowing exactly what we are eating, so thank you again for your comments...😊

All plastic is bad news but cling film has got to be the worst out of the lot.I have stretch lids at home. They are made from silicon and they can be used in place of cling film.

They can be used to cover bowls and store in the fridge, which is what I mainly use them for.

This saves using up cling film and throwing it away as soon as it’s been used.

Also these stretch lids can be cleaned and used again and again.

You mentioned methane and I have heard before that incinerating cling film releases methane into the atmosphere and methane is much more denser than carbon dioxide.

The rising CO2 levels is problematic enough but to add methane to the atmosphere too fuels climate change even quicker.


I do everything i can do to avoid plastic as much as possible , i dont buy plastic bags anymore havent for ages i have my onw canvas bags that i use over and over again, i swapped plastic straws for a metal reusable straw, i only buy water outside if its not in plastic instead glass ect. My fruit and veg i only buy from a market were everything is loose and i have my own veggie canvas bag to put it all in , even meat and fish i buy from a fishmonger or farmers market were everything is loose and i take reusable tubs along that i put my meat and fish in ( fish is seperate from meat) , unfortunately i cant 100% avoid plastic but im doing the best i can do but I'll be glad when we live in a world were there is no plastic and the supermarkets and shops have found safer alternatives for the planet and us.

Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to BMDmom

Hey BMDmom you do really well and I am very impressed. I don't think that any of us can avoid plastic altogether in one way or another but I know that you do really well compared to me. So good for you. 😊

Totally agree Jerry. It is near enough impossible to buy all your groceries in a supermarket without it being wrapped in plastic. I'm trying to be as zero waste as possible but it is really hard.

And also expensive. In edinburgh we have 3 zero waste shops which remind me of the old shop 'scoop' don't know if you are old enough to remember these places but I would love to see these shops in every wee town. Not just the big cities.

I use the three R's as much as possible:' refuse, reuse then recycle. Recycling is not the answer, we have to stop buying it in the first place for it to make a real difference.

Also I believe that thousands of people doing zero waste imperfectly has more of an impact than a handful doing it 'perfectly'.

Thank you for raising this subject and sorry for the long reply👍

Jerry profile image
JerryAdministrator in reply to Hooper1980

Hi Hooper1980 I do know the sort of shop that you mean, I have a problem with scoop-away shops as I'm a coeliac, so there's of lots technicalities involved with protecting food. Another issue with how global the supply market has become is things travel 1000's of miles so we have to look at things from a long term sustainability rather than this lust for cost saving.

I agree about recycling as its everyones best interests and it's when that penny drops that things really happen.

Jerry. 😊

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