Food packaging

Brand audit finds food packaging and household items among top plastic polluters

According to the audit, single-layer packaging was the dominant packaging, accounting for 73%; food packaging material was highest overall at 60%, followed by packaging material at 20%

According to the audit, single-layer packaging was the dominant packaging, accounting for 73%; food packaging material was highest overall at 60%, followed by packaging material at 20%

A brand audit of plastic waste in select locations in Karnataka including Bengaluru has identified food packaging and household items among the top polluters.

“Brand Audit 2021 -UNWRAPPED”, conceptualized by Break Free From Plastics (BFFP), was a data-driven citizen initiative in which plastic waste was documented to identify companies responsible for plastic pollution. Spread over 44 sites in Bengaluru, Bettahalasur, Kodagu and Mysuru, 288 volunteers audited 1,24,390 parts and audited 2,663 brands.

The methodology was two-pronged: home audits – the composition of household plastic waste generation and the cleaning of waste in public spaces. “After the plastic waste is collected, data on each piece of plastic is recorded: brand name, parent company, product type, plastic resin type, and single-layer or multi-layer plastic,” the report said.

In Bangalore, 74,616 parts – 60% were audited, 17,361 parts – 14% in Bettahalasur, 29,945 parts – 24% in Kodagu and Mysuru, 2,468 parts – 2%.

“Local/national brands dominated the brand audit, accounting for 73% of total brands, and international brands 27%. Unbranded products represent 31% of total parts, and this includes single-use plastic items such as plastic bags, covers and pouches including those for trash cans, food packaging such as chapatti covers, or snacks , etc In a way, this implies that COVID has had the effect of diluting Karnataka’s plastic ban,” the report states.

Single-layer packaging was the dominant packaging, accounting for 73%. Food packaging material was highest overall at 60%, followed by packaging material at 20%.

LDPE (low density polyethylene) packaging was the highest at 33%, with milk and curd items accounting for the bulk of these, while the second category under material type was “other”, which included multi-material plastics and other unidentifiable plastics at 31%. % (packets of biscuits, chocolate wrappers, shampoo packets, sachets, masks and laminated boxes).

The report’s recommendations to businesses include internalizing the true cost of plastic production and plastic pollution and investing in sustainable systems, revealing the amount of plastics produced and imported, rethinking packaging and delivery systems and stopping promoting chemical recycling and co-processing as alternatives, and investing in reuse and refill infrastructure systems in addition to building the capacity of informal waste workers to be able to engage and work in these new opportunities .

Pinky Chandran, trustee of Hasiru Dala, told The Hindu it was the second such audit. “Manufacturers must seriously recognize and respect waste pickers as equal partners in realizing the vision of collecting all plastic packaging. Since waste pickers have been subsidizing waste management, particularly plastic waste, for many years, they need to invest significantly in recycling infrastructure and financial mechanisms to enable this and portray themselves as stewards of the environment,” she said.

She added that new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) goals need to invest in reuse infrastructure. “Companies must step up and consider rethinking packaging and must not co-opt false solutions focused on chemical recycling or co-processing in cement kilns,” she said.