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The Next Wave of Food Packaging

Pearl Strategy and Innovation Design recently attended the webinar hosted by Food Canada where experts discussed sustainability and the next wave of food packaging. Here is our take on it.


Plastic is essential in food packaging, but issues with waste management and recycling infrastructure in Canada lead to environmental concerns. The recycling system struggles with certain plastics due to lack of standardization and municipal capabilities. The food industry, driven by economic and environmental pressures, must adopt sustainable practices, with clear guidance and support for compliance. Effective policies and infrastructure improvements are crucial for a sustainable future in plastic use and waste management.

The Role of Plastic in Food Packaging:

Plastic plays a crucial role in food packaging due to its protective and preservative functions. It shields fragile products from contamination, extends shelf life, and helps reduce waste by preventing spoilage and spillage. Plastic allows for the transportation and the printing of important information on the packaging, making it available for consumer consumption. Plastic is cost-effective and keeps prices down, but the current system of plastic waste management is flawed leading to environmental concerns. The issue does not necessarily lie with the plastic itself but with the inadequate recycling infrastructure and policies.

Recycling Infrastructure:

Canada’s recycling infrastructure has significant obstacles, particularly with plastics #5 and #4. The lack of standardized recycling processes and the capabilities of municipalities worsen the problem. There is often a lack of resources to collect and process recyclable materials. Alternative packaging solutions also face drawbacks, including increase costs and the need for new packaging machinery and materials.

The Need for Industry Standards:

 In order to achieve progress in plastic waste management, requires greater alignment and standardized practices across the industry. Standards do not hinder innovation; rather, they provide a foundation for developing advanced solutions. The technology industry exemplifies how standards can coexist with rapid innovation. Harmonizing materials and recycling processes can help overcome the challenges posed by varying standards and regulations. The introduction of the plastics registry is a positive step in the right direction, it requires clear guidance and support for businesses to comply effectively.

Innovations in Sustainability:

 Manufacturers can explore various solutions, such as energy-from-waste technologies to address the limitations of the current recycling infrastructure and landfills. Energy-from-waste offers a way to convert waste into energy and chemical recycling can improve recycling efficiency. Closed-loop reuse programs and post-consumer recycled plastics can mitigate the impact of single use plastic bands, particularly in the food industry. Simplifying plastic types and creating common standards for recycled materials can drive innovation and efficiency in packaging.

Motivations and Barriers in the Food Industry:

 The food industry faces the pressures of the economy, consumer demand, and environmental concerns. Sustainability is not only a marketing opportunity but also a key factor in attracting top talent. Companies with strong sustainability plans tend to recruit and retain innovative employees. Stretch goals and timelines often shift as challenges become apparent. The introduction of the plastics registry requires clear guidance and support for businesses to comply effectively.


The shift towards sustainable plastic use and waste management comes with many challenges but also offers significant opportunities for innovation. By focusing on standardization, improved recycling infrastructure, and alternative packaging solutions, the industry can make substantial progress. Policies must be well designed, ensuring that both businesses and consumers can adapt successfully to a more sustainable future.

If you need support on insights, strategy or innovation connect with us at or connect with Susan Weaver at 416 908 2446

Source: Food Canada, May 02, 2024

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