The worker is watering a bed of flowers in a Sharjah park. John Varughese / Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
The trashing away of the mindset and practice of the manufacture, distribution and use of unsafe food packages is everyone’s responsibility. For one, everyone is a consumer and the solution to the enormous global problem brought about by these items that deteriorate not only one’s health and the entire biodiversity, starts with one’s self.
Starting it out with one’s self and at least in the UAE, it is the millennials (born between the 1980s and 1990s) who have been noted to be highly interested in going for the green solutions in sustainable packaging. Business establishments have also joined the bandwagon.
These were from the third virtual panel discussion of the Emirates Environmental Group held on Monday morning in which chairperson Habiba Al Ma’rashi navigated on the topic “Sustainable Packaging and the Food Economy.” Resource speakers were World Packaging Organisation (WPO, Sweden) secretary general Dr. Johannes Bergmair, Food Packaging Forum Foundation (FPFF, Switzerland) Scientific Communication officer Lisa Zimmerman, Ministry of Industry & Advanced Technology (MoIAT, UAE)-Regulations & Systems head Engr. Yousef Al Marzooqi, Delivery Hero (Germany) Sustainability manager Patrick Rowse and Our Modern World (UAE) founder/chief executive officer Meghna Lakhani.
At the introduction, Al Ma’rashi pointed out that various research works have commonly concluded that most of the waste come from the packaging as everyone throws food wrappings and packets such as a “chocolate wrapper” anywhere but the bin “which goes unnoticed.”
WPO is the non-profit and non-government umbrella organisation of national and regional packaging institutes, associations and allied businesses that encourages and stimulates research and development as well as the transfer of knowledge and skills of packaging science, technology, engineering and access. FPFF is a charitable non-profit organisation that promotes independent, science-based and balanced information on food packaging and health. MoIAT is the newest ministry in the UAE established in July 2020 that develops laws and policies pertaining to the enhancement and boost of foreign direct investments, entrepreneurship, jobs creation, local talent upskilling, and exports of “Made in the Emirates” goods and products. Delivery Hero is a multinational online delivery system present in 50 countries across Asia, Latin America, and Europe. One Modern World is into the research and development as well as the creation of multiple use or reusable goods vis-a-vis the single use products for the food service industry.
Al Marzooki shared laws and mandates set by the government to ensure environmental protection is part of the packaging industry compliance. The UAE has a set of standards that enforce regulatory criteria applicable to all oxo-biodegradable bags, packaging and disposable articles aside from plastic polymers. Among the factors that led to the formulation of standards on oxo-biodegradable food packaging and plastics was the observation that the death of camels were a result of their consumption of plastic garbage in the desert. “All of us can take the responsibility,” said Al Marzooki on Al Ma’rashi’s question regarding who among the “suppliers, producers and consumers (of food packaging) are the “polluters.”
He implied at some point in the discussion, the virtue of responsibilty citing a normal observation among some park promenaders just dumping their food waste/left-overs in plastics beside garbage containers. “To be good example. To use multiple use and not the single use (food packaging),” is the solution, according to Zimmermann. She cautioned the audience about the existence and massive use of plastic food packages with over 100,000 chemicals debilitating one’s health and damaging the environment even as governments and concerned individuals have been actively campaigning and working on this concern. She said that in the European Union only 100 potential risk chemicals in food packaging have so far been addressed.
Her reference to the caution was the March 2020 FPFF “Impacts of Food Contact on Human Health: A Consensus Statement,” by 33 scientists specialising in Developmental Biology, Endocrinology, Epidemiology, Toxicology, and Environmental and Public Health from Switzerland, the Philippines, Denmark, Czech Republic, among other countries: “We highlight that the human population is exposed via food to chemicals migrating from food contact articles such as food packaging.
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