Book a Stand

150 Suppliers

50 Keynotes

Free tickets

COVID Safety

How to Implement Sustainable Packaging in the Food and Drink Industry


Plastic packaging is one of the world’s biggest problems, but there are plenty of sustainable packaging alternatives that could help our Earth. Discover the solutions, here...

Sustainability may seem like a big trend that everyone is capitalising on right now. That said, there are trends that will blow over, and there are trends that are here to stay. We, at the Leisure F&B Expo, think, and certainly hope, that sustainable packaging is here to stay, and your FREE tickets to our show should help you join the cause.
Packaging generates over 141 million tonnese of plastic waste each year! That’s nearly four times the amount generated from the next lowest sector (discover more here). It’s clear that something HAS to be done.

Following on from last week’s blog post on five food and drink sustainability facts, we’ll be taking it one step further. Discover the sustainable packaging options available to your business, that you may have never thought of before, here...

Plastic packaging outside is a massive problem, which is why the food and drink industry needs to move forward with solutions

What is Sustainable Packaging?

Sustainable packaging has a much lower environmental footprint than other types of packaging. This comes from an array of differences, including:

  • A minimised production process.

  • A shorter supply chain, which limits carbon footprint.

  • The product may be reusable, sometimes in more than one way.

  • Making the product recyclable, creating a circular economy.

So, how can this be put into practice?

1. Transition From Plastic to Paper

Every single day, around eight million pieces of plastic makes its way into the ocean (discover more, here). That’s a scary thought, right? Well, there are easy ways to make your companies carbon footprint that little bit less harmful - could paper be your saviour?


  • It’s much better for the environment than plastic, as it breaks down more easily.

  • There are a broad range of raw materials which paper packaging can be made from.

  • It is great for printing logos, pictures, and text on.

  • It’s lighter, which is ideal for bulk transportation.

  • The waste can be recycled without pollution.


  • Not waterproof, and can disintegrate in wetter weather.

  • The production process of paper and cardboard emits air and water pollution, as well as chemicals like chlorine.

  • Not the best option to house heavy options.

2. Explore Biodegradable Packaging

Did you know that it takes around 500 years for a single plastic bottle to decompose! Instead, biodegradable plastics are a fantastic alternative, that help to limit the amount of solid plastic that remains within the environment.

A number of companies are making the effort to conform to this biodegradable packaging “trend”. For example, Snact worked alongside TIPA in creating a packaging for their snacks that was 100 percent compostable. That said, although it may seem like the ideal solution, in practice, it definitely needs some work:


  • Won’t harm animals as much as normal plastic.

  • Breaks down into almost nothing.


  • Only biodegrades in certain conditions, like dry landfill, not the wet ocean.

  • If the packaging is Oxo-degradable, this means it won’t completely disappear from the environment. Instead, it’ll slowly break down into much smaller microplastics, which are still harmful.

  • Current biodegradable plastics aren’t recyclable.

A growing plant may become useful for creating plant packaging when it grows fully

3. Look Into Bioplastics, or Plant-Based Packaging

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a substitute for plastic that’s made using fermented plant starch. With single-use plastic on the out, it seems plant-based options may be the next big thing! But will it work?


  • Will take a lot less time to decompose than plastics.

  • Will decompose in a much safer way than plastic, leaving almost no trace.

  • Has a much lower carbon footprint than plastic.


  • The production process still needs refining.

  • Upturn in bioplastics could create a food shortage, or price inflation.

  • Could endanger natural areas, like rainforests, for crop growth.

4. Check Out Infinitely-Recyclable Plastic

Earlier this year, Berkeley Labs scientists published a report in the Nature Chemistry journal which blew us all out of the water. The report hailed the discovery of a brand new plastic, poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, which facilitates a circular economy. This means it can be recycled again and again, without changes in quality.

How is this done? Well, scientists replaced the chemical bonds used in the average plastic bottle with “reversible bonds”. So, when submerged in a solution that’s highly acidic, it dissolves into its natural form, ready to be rebuilt.

This is a massive breakthrough as, if used in mass production, would reduce the mixing of different types of plastic in recycling systems. This way, expensive recycling technology would become unnecessary, creating an economically viable system!

5. Create a Reusable Product: Be Creative!

Want to be a little more creative? There are some companies which are thinking more outside of the box, and creating packaging which, after purchased, can be morphed into something completely different!

A fantastic example of this is H&M’s cardboard shopping bag, which can be made into a coat hanger! This is a fantastic way to create a functional product, even after its original use.

6. Remove Packaging Altogether

We can reel off this list of plastic alternatives but, as you can see, there are drawbacks to almost all of them. Therefore, removing packaging altogether is the best way to make the most change.

For some initial inspiration, our blog post on the 4 Ways to go Plastic Free could be a good place to start. Otherwise, we wish you luck in your plastic-free endeavours.

Leaving rubbish on a beach is a terrible way to look after our environment

Taking the Next Step to Sustainable Packaging

Want more inspiration on ways to implement plastic-free initiatives into your food and drink company? We, at the Leisure F&B Expo, are here to help.

By getting your FREE ticket to the show, you’ll have the opportunity to hear our fantastic speaker, Sarah Ward from B Smith Packaging, discuss the topic. Specifically, she’ll be talking about the transition from plastic to paper, and other alternatives. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to hear how the experts have done it themselves!

Do you think you may have some further insight to add to our plight for a sustainable future? Then please get in contact with our Event Director, Oliver Hayes, at, or call +44 (0)117 929 6087, for all exhibiting enquiries.

We can’t wait to welcome you through the NEC Birmingham doors, on 6th & 7th November.

Share This Post On Social Media: