baby food packaging

The Environmental Impact of Convenient Baby Food Packaging

Baby food has come a long way since it was first made available in glass jars and cardboard boxes.

Today, a lot of baby food comes in plastic containers or squeezable pouches.

Often the foods haven’t changed. Rather, the product has simply been packaged more conveniently.

The Problem with Convenience

You know what it’s like. You’re running late. It’s nearly time for a snack for your toddler and lunch for your youngest.

The problem is, there isn’t time to eat before you get where you’re going so you need food to go. Grabbing baby food in a sealed pouch certainly solves that, but what do you do with the empty packet afterwards?

Here we look at how to strike a balance between convenience and not creating tonnes of discarded packaging.

Speed of Access and Safety

Products packaged in plastic pouches are easier for your young child to manage. The pouch stands up and uses pressure to release the contents so your child can eat without a bowl and spoon.

There’s also less worry about dropping the pouch and spilling, or the container breaking. These elements definitely take some of the stress out of feeding your children on the go. Glass jars need at least a spoon, and with a wider opening, have a higher risk of spilling.

Convenience Is King

Some options are more convenient, especially at hectic times or when you’re out and about. But there are pros and cons to each.

Food in your own reusable containers is great for using up leftovers. They’re also useful for controlling serving size, which is perfect for minimising waste. However this needs a certain level of prep, plus there will be the dirty containers to bring home with you afterwards.

Food in disposable plastic containers is convenient, but many are difficult to recycle. You’ll need to know if the type of plastic is recyclable in your area – and services often differ from region to region, even within the UK.

Glass jars are recyclable, making them a greener option. But if you don’t use the whole serving at once, there’s the issue of how to store the leftovers safely, so that they’re not wasted. Jars can also be heavy to carry with you.

Baby food in pouches is really convenient but the packaging often isn’t recyclable.

Freshness

A newly opened jar of baby food is fresh the first time it’s opened. To keep the uneaten part fresh, you ideally need a separate bowl for the serving your child is having at the time. The unused part then has to be kept under proper conditions to ensure it does not spoil before you get back home.

If you make your own baby food, you’ll need to keep an eye on its freshness and how you store it.

Baby food pouches are fresh from the moment you open them.

Expense

Food in your own containers is more cost effective than shop-bought baby food. But that’s not the only thing that contributes to the cost. There is the cost of keeping the unused food in good condition until you return home.

Chemical Exposure

The materials and inks used in all food packaging have to be food grade safe. So whether you’re using glass jars or plastic pouches, there should be no risk of chemicals leaching into food.

Always check they’re safe for use in the microwave if you intend to use them in one. The same goes for your own reusable food containers. If you’re using plastic containers, look for ones that are BPA free.

Pouch-Power

Pouches are easier to ship, shelve, and carry with you. They don’t clink, chip, or break like glass jars. Pouches also don’t crack under pressure like brittle plastic containers, and they don’t cave in like cardboard boxes. Plus, they are spill-resistant, unlike some other food and drink containers.

But, they aren’t always recyclable.

Recyclability

According to a 2009 study, flexible packaging “offers energy savings of 30-87%.” This means that flexible pouches use less energy to produce and recycle. The only exception? Aluminium continues to be the most energy efficient recyclable material.

There’s a problem though. These plastic pouches cannot always be disposed of through curbside recycling programmes. But some can be mailed back for recycling via the ‘Terracycle’ initiative.

Terracycle to the Rescue

Terracycle is a global company dedicated to ‘Eliminating the Idea of Waste’ by recycling the non-recyclable. Individuals, companies, and schools can use Terracycle to recycle materials not covered by their local authorities.

If your recycling collection doesn’t cover your preferred baby food packaging, check their website to see if you can send it on to them for processing. EllaCycle is one such initiative in partnership with Terracycle.

More Haste, Not Waste

We all lead busy lives and want quick convenient options that suit us, but that doesn’t always mean we need to create more waste. It’s also the case that it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing choice.

You may opt to make your own baby food for when you’re at home, and go with pouches for convenience when you’re out and about. Pouches have many useful benefits, so no doubt they’re here to stay.

Hopefully as their popularity grows, so will opportunities to recycle them.

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