The benefits of paper and fiber-based food packaging

The basic function of food packaging is to protect the food from external factors, such as oxygen, water vapor or even light, so that it can be safely consumed. Packaging also provides consumers with important information, such as nutritional information, origin and safe handling instructions.

The barrier requirements for different foods vary significantly depending on the food that is packed, as well as the length of time and the conditions in which the food is intended to remain in the pack. 

Paper, paperboard and fiber are treated for improved wet strength, grease resistance or to provide it with barrier against oxygen, moisture or mineral oils, and protect against food aroma loss. This is typically achieved with coating or sizing to protect the paper’s surface. Even writing paper requires sizing agents to prevent ink from seeping into the paper and to prevent ink from blurring due to contact with water.

Wood fiber-based packaging solutions have several advantages from an environmental perspective compared to 100% plastic products:

  • For instance, more than 90 % of plastics can be replaced on average and the environmental footprint is lower than the plastic alternatives.
  • Polymeric coated fiber and paper products are widely recyclable and fit well in established recycling systems. They can be used as raw materials to produce new renewable products, such as magazine paper, paper bags, secondary packaging or corrugated board packaging.
  • Polymeric coatings can be produced from renewable as well as fossil-based sources.

The future
EPPA members believe that fiber-based packaging can improve the environmental footprint of Europe’s modern food economy without compromising safety, hygiene or accessibility.

To increase the adoption of fiber-based packaging and further improve its circularity, EPPA is calling for the adoption of evidence-based packaging policies that:

  • Ensure high standards of food safety and hygiene to protect citizens’ health.
  • Deliver investment into 21st Century collection, sorting and recycling systems that support the circular economy.
  • Support food systems that both deliver food accessibility to citizens and reduce food waste.