Food Industry: Killing the Planet?

by JRajotte on February 9, 2015 - 10:00pm

We must eat in order to survive. That is a fact.  Unfortunately the way we feed our self has an impact on the environment. In the article “Food industry overuses hard-to-recycle plastic packaging, report indicates” written by Khalil Akhtar and published on CBC News on February 3, 2015, it is stated that “the food we eat is often packaged in unrecyclable or difficult to recycle materials.” The article starts by noting that there has been an improvement since the 1990’s where Styrofoam was used as packaging for the fast food industry. But the report also indicates that since the 1980’s glass containers which are easily recyclable have been replaced by plastics which are harder to recycle. The report also indicates that only 14% of plastics are recycled. The K-Cup is also being criticised for creating excessive amount of waste with its one cup per pod product.  Chrissy Spallone’s article, “Germany Debuts First Zero-Waste Grocery Store” published June 2, 2014 on illustrates an innovation in the food industry. It states that a German Company offers their costumers to purchase goods that do not come packaged, instead they encourage consumers to use refillable containers, which can be filled with what is needed. This makes it Germany’s first zero emission grocery store. The articles states that “60 000 plastic bags [are] consumed every second in the United States alone”. A large amount of plastic bags are not properly disposed of and end up into the environment. It is estimated that one million birds and hundreds of thousands of marine animals are killed by plastic bags per year

On a personal level, the situation concerning waste management and general packaging in the grocery’s industry along with fast food restaurants industry seems to be on a bad shape. For example Cucumbers do not need to be wrapped in a film of plastic in order to be fit for consumption. Why are they being wrapped? Another sad example of bad waste disposal method seems to become apparent when going into a fast food restaurant; there are no recycling bins, ironically it can be read on the wrapper that said that the wrapper in which the food has been wrapped comes in post-consumer recycled plastics or cardboard. Other issues exist such as the snack size format food which creates excessive waste with its none-recyclable plastics.

Many solutions seems to exist for these problems, for example instead of buying small packaged food in individual disposable wrapping, why not buy larger quantities which can come in a more recyclable container and then split the larger serving into smaller servings which can be placed in washable containers. Not only does this approach reduce waste but it also reduce food waste as it permits consumers to choose appropriate food servings. When shopping for groceries consumers could also purchase food that is not wrapped in plastic when the same product is available without the plastic wrapping. Reusable plastic bags can also be used in order to replace the disposable type which ends up in our oceans or hanging in trees. The Fast-food industry could also provide compostable or biodegradable packaging in order to reduce its impact. In the end us consumer hold the power to change the situation, will we keep going on a path of environmental carnage or will we preserve our planet’s ecosystem for generations to come?


For further reading:


First of all, your summary is very precise and interesting. Also, the fact that you provide some realistic solution is very appreciated. Second of all, I think you are totally right about the fact that some items at the grocery store do not need to be wrapped. From my own point of view, I think that every food that is not from a natural "source" or can't be found in nature should not be sold, but that is another issue. To reduce plastic caused pollution, grocery story should just replace plastic bag by biodegradable paper bag. In link to your article, you could add that QC grocery store gives the illusion that they are part of a certain kind of ecological movement, but they not. They use the "we recycle here" logo for marketing purposes and only marketing purposes.

I found your article very interesting which is why I decided to reply to you. You were able to point out very important information which made me understand the gravity of the situation. I knew that the way we are feeding ourselves had a negative impact on the environment, but I did not it reached that point. I am glad that you pointed out some solutions to it and how we can improve this situation and make a small difference in the way we do our grocery shopping. You seemed to be concerned about the environment, which I why I thought you might be interested in volunteering in a non-profit organization that would serve the cause you defend. One organization that is extremely present for the environmental cause is Greenpeace, and they have many volunteering opportunities near Montreal. If you are interested in having more information, you can visit their website at

I agree with your point of view. Your post highlights many interesting points. There are some things I did not realize before and now I do, like for example, the cucumber needing to be wrapped in plastic and it is not even necessary. And it is not just cucumbers, it is almost all the vegetables in a grocery market and that is terrifying because of the potential damage it can cause. I completely agree with you about making people buy larger quantities of food. By doing so, everyone can have the amount of food they want and the food can be packaged in small, washable, and reusable containers, instead of unrecyclable plastic wrappers.

This issue seems to focus on utilitarianism, which basically means doing a useful action or performing the greatest good that will benefit the greatest number. In this case, reducing the amount of plastic bags and other planet-harming products, even though it can be a lot more useful than the “healthier” products for the earth, will be doing a good action/deed to create happiness for a greater amount of people. Being moved by what is happening to the planet that we live in can create significance: if a greater number of people do it for the greater good, then happiness can be achieved.

I absolutely love that you gave suggestions of how we can help as ordinary citizens at the end of your post. It ties your piece together well as you show the hope in the situation. I do many of the things you listed regularly at home and have noticed a significant decrease in the amount of plastics being thrown away. I found an article similarly related to yours. It is concerned with addressing the environmental impact of the food industry as well. Something considered in this article that you did not mention are the effects of agriculture on our water, soil and air. In Canada, the ecological footprint of food is important to citizens. Over recent years, many efforts have been made to reduce the impact our food is having, notably the impacts of packaging. For instance, the switch to re-usable bags happened across the country. Something we really need to work on though is food waste. Nearly 40% of food is wasted in Canada. This suggests that we should all be working a little harder to plan our meal sizes correctly and buying the correct amount of food for the household. All these little things can have very significant impacts and it is worthwhile to see what little changes each of us can be implementing into our daily routines to be a little bit greener.