Plastics is still an expanding industry, and the good news now is that plastic containers, especially new, thinner “flexible packaging options”, are largely recyclable. Plastics workers number over 1 million strong, and their yearly output — just in America — is measured in billions of dollars, over $350 billion yearly.
Glass bottles, the only material that used to be used for milk, soda pop, and other comestibles that featured an expiration date, would require more than 25 times the manpower required by plastics production just for transport. Plastic is now the main packaging material used worldwide, and recycling programs abound across the country.
Almost all Americans have the resources to recycle plastic bottles, forks, food packaging and plates. Local governments often provide weekly curbside recycling services and the towns that do not provide such services usually have recycling centers located in or near the town itself.
Food packaging design, which includes shrink wrap packaging, tamper evident bands, and zipper pouches — a relatively new design — all work to extend the shelf life and viability of supermarket foods. Newer methods like heat-sealing and a reduction in the overall amount of plastic used in the average milk jug work together to get better food to consumers, keep it fresh on the shelves for longer, and to reduce food packaging waste.
Nowadays, just 32 ounces of modern, more durable plastic can be used to carry about 20 half-gallons of liquid. That’s about an ounce and a half per container of recyclable plastic that can be molded into custom food packaging to accommodate various packaging designs specified by the food manufacturing companies.
If aluminum were to be used, as it was in the early and middle parts of the last century, 48 ounces would be needed to deliver the same result.
Flexible packaging like that required for juice boxes and other spouted pouches like applesauce packets for children, is considered custom food packaging and can be easily manufactured from the newer, lighter, more flexible plastics that are currently being used and recycled across America today.
Worldwide, requests for plastics that are flexible and recyclable are growing, topping $245 billion annually five years ago. When most Americans have easy access to recycling facilities and are also demanding more longevity from supermarket products, flexible packaging will continue to do well in the world market.