Packaging comes with almost everything you buy, be it food from the supermarket to the box your latest phone comes in. Packaging can be seen as wasteful and bad for the environment, but it does serve a purpose. So, what are the most common types of packaging, and how are they made?
Of all the different types of packaging, plastic is the most common. Plastic is also the most difficult packaging material to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way. Plastic is common due to the fact that it is cheap to manufacture, durable, and lightweight. These are the reasons as to why you are most likely to discover plastic packaging on almost all products you purchase.
Plastic is made from oil and chemical compounds, which are heated up to create a thick resin-like sheet. This is then shaped into the end product and makes its way into the home. In fact, nearly 10% of the waste disposed of in the UK is made up of many different types of plastic. These plastics can take up to 500 years to degrade, thus making them problematic for landfill sites.
Most commonly used for food packaging, metal is a hygienic and easy to recycle material. Soft drinks will typically be sold in an aluminium can, which is lightweight yet durable. Tin is the most common type of metal used for packing canned foods, it is from the material used that so many people refer to the cans as tins. When recycling, tin is separated with the use of strong magnets
This material is most often used as a durable air and watertight material. It is commonly used for transporting goods by freight, but it is also very hard to recycle. In fact, it is now so popular that it is fast becoming the main type of packaging used for food products. Cartons consist of several layers of plastic, paper, and foil and can be found with most fresh fruit juices and UHT milk. It is down to the complex layering of the materials that make it hard to be recycled with ease.
The second most common type of packaging is cardboard. Cardboard provides a reasonably lightweight material and is cheap to mass produce. Made by combining up to 100 layers of paper, cardboard is also the easiest of all materials to recycle. It typically comes in the form of boxes and sheets.
Glass is another common source of packaging for food and drink items. It is common with alcoholic drinks, such as wines and spirits, and also with jarred foods, such as hot dogs, sauerkraut, and jams. Glass is made by heating sand and silica to create strong and durable containers. It is however very heavy, so is not always an economical choice. Glass is also very easy to recycle.