• Sustainability

We believe that circular packaging plays a pivotal role in protecting the planet 

We believe that food packaging is essential. By ensuring hygiene and the safety of food, packaging keeps food edible for longer and plays an instrumental role in driving access to affordable food for all, wherever they are in the world.

We should therefore make positive choices in the selection of materials to ensure fit-for-purpose packaging. For us, being material positive supports how we play our part in contributing to both circular and low-carbon systems.

The impact of the food system poses one of the greatest challenges to achieving sustainability. Almost 30 percent of food produced is lost or wasted – contributing to approximately 10 percent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. This outcome ripples across ecosystems and populations, directly affecting living standards and quality of life.  

Packaging plays a critical role in limiting the carbon impact of our food system.  As well as improving its circularity and enabling the movement of food - from where it is produced to where is consumed – packaging supports portion control, facilitates affordability, and provides numerous social and economic benefits along the way.

It is for this reason we believe that packaging forms an integral part of our food systems.

It is why we believe that the value of packaging for the environment is much higher than its impact.

Here’s how packaging benefits food, people, and the planet:

1) Packaging protects people with food safety and hygiene add_circle_outline

Food packaging plays an important role in preventing the cross-contamination of food and beverages. The modern paper cup, for example, was invented to reduce cross-contamination and human foodborne disease, after it was found that drinking water from communal cups posed a danger to public health. Nowadays, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates annually that there are 23 million cases of foodborne illness worldwide attributed to its improper handling at all stages in the food chain.[1] The Covid-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the importance of hygiene requirements in food packaging when considering sustainable food systems. In 2020, over three-quarter billion people faced hunger – largely due to the effects of the pandemic.[2]

On the wider food supply chains, the larger impact of the Covid-19 pandemic stems from the sudden change in demand, and its disruptive effects on the various actors connecting “farm to fork”.[3] It is for this reason, that the packaging industry was recognised by governments across the world as an essential industry during the pandemic. In addition to enabling the continued flow of goods to market shelves, without the right packaging it would have been difficult for food retailers to provide take-away meals in a Covid-secure manner, as acknowledged by the European Environment Agency.[4] 


[1] Five Keys to Safer Food Manual, WHO 2006. 

[2] The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, FAO 2021. 

[3] Food Supply Chains and COVID-19: Impacts and Policy Lessons, OECD 2020. 

[4] United Nations Environment Programme (2021). Food Waste Index Report 2021. Nairobi. 

2) Packaging plays a role in preventing food waste and loss add_circle_outline

Food is an invaluable commodity, yet almost a third produced for human consumption is wasted across the supply chain. How food is produced, packaged, and consumed has a significant impact on the journey to zero hunger.[1] An estimated 931 million tonnes of food available to consumers landed in the waste bins of households, retailers, restaurants, and other food providers in 2019 alone.[2] While there exists no single cause for this waste, factors including agricultural storage issues, lack of coordination within the retail sector, and consumer habits contribute to its continuance. 

Food packaging helps to mitigate this waste. Its primary roles are to protect food products from damage and spoilage and contain it during transport and storage.[3] Product protection is the most important factor in the environmental evaluation of packaging. Safeguarding from chemical, biological and physical external influences, packaging delays product deterioration, extends shelf life, and can also preserve the quality and increase the safety of food. The benefit of innovative packaging is most evident with highly perishable products and food products with high carbon footprints: Only 5 percent of carbon emissions in food systems are attributable to packaging.[4] The environmental benefit of avoided waste is usually 5 to 10 times higher than the environmental cost of the packaging.[5] 


[1] World Food Programme - Food Systems

[2] Food Waste Index Report 2021. United Nations Environment Programme (2021). Nairobi. 

[3] Coles R. 2003. Introduction. In: Coles R, McDowell D, Kirwan MJ, editors. Food packaging technology. London, U.K.: Blackwell Publishing, CRC Press. p 1–31 

[4] Food wastage footprint and climate change

[5] Stop waste - Save Food. Denkstatt.

3) Packaging choices have an environmental impact – assessing the full life-cycle of packaging is key add_circle_outline

Approximately two-thirds of the world’s population experience severe water scarcity for at least one month per year. In Europe, more than 120 million citizens lack access to safe drinking water and half a billion people across the globe face critical shortages annually.[1] Addressing significant environmental challenges of water shortages becomes vital as we evaluate the current systems in place that contribute to water stress. 

A TÜV certified Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) by Ramboll, comparing the freshwater usage and the carbon footprints of single and multi-use systems in the context of in-store dining in European quick service restaurants, found that during a year the washing and drying of reusables consumed so much energy that using single-use paper tableware over the same period resulted in a smaller carbon footprint. In addition, the washing of reusables also used 3.6 times the amount of freshwater than single-use products.[2] 

The environmental impacts of the energy and water required to sanitize multi-use products demonstrate that disposable packaging – in particular those made of fiber sources from sustainably managed forests – can be an environmentally better solution within the food service industry. Another LCA conducted by German-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu) illustrates the resource efficiency of lightweight flexible packaging. It was found to be the better alternative when compared to traditional materials such as glass jars and steel cans. By protecting food products, smarter packaging ensures that the carbon footprint created in food production is not wasted. 

[1] European Commission Joint Research Center. Site last accessed June 14, 2021

[2] Single-use vs Multiple-use life-cycle assessment. EPPA & Ramboll, 2021.


4) Packaging plays an instrumental role in driving access to food for all add_circle_outline

The benefits of food packaging extend beyond health and safety, supporting modern life in ways previously unimaginable. As urbanization continues to a spread, fit-for-use packaging makes the availability, affordability, and convenience of food possible for many. Since the 1950s, ready meals have become a staple for many modern households as a convenience for working professionals, families, students, and other time strapped groups. More recently, Emily Matchar has examined the economics and social implications of healthy and affordable pre-prepared food, enabled by food packaging.[1] As urbanization increases, so does the demand for take-away and ready-made meals.

The requirements of keeping an ever-growing urban population supplied with the necessary food and provisions are more complex. Packaging type plays an important role in food protection and preservation in transport. A frequently neglected feature of packaging – especially of flexible packaging – is its ease of scalability: flexible packaging is easily adapted to match the requirements of the product it protects. Smaller portions and portioned packaging offer a sensible way to reduce food waste through storing in sections, where the spread of mould and bacteria is restricted. This type of packaging is especially beneficial for food that is consumed over time.[2]

As 56 percent of the global population now reside in urban areas, the function of packaging in transporting and distributing food becomes more essential.[3] It is imperative to maintain food packaging value chains that are resilient in the face of unexpected climate or other challenges, as they play a critical role in supporting people’s lives and livelihoods and enabling the availability of safe, hygienic, secure, and affordable food products. 


[1] Emily Matchar, The Atlantic 2013

[2] Stop Waste - Save Food. Denkstatt.

[3] The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, FAO 2021. 

5) Digitalization will take food packaging to the next level add_circle_outline

Digital technologies provide the possibility for transformative advancements in the food packaging industry. Traceability, convenience, and tamper detection are secondary features, which are becoming increasingly important.[1] 

Through digitalization, these features can be optimized but also serve to improve operational performance, provide the ability to better serve customers and to assist in the design for circularity through smart packaging with sustainability at its centre. In addition to enabling customer engagement with the content and traceability of the origin of the product, one of the key values in smart packaging is the easy access to information on the raw materials used in the packaging, which facilitates easier recycling.


[1] Kenneth Marsh Ph.D. Betty Bugusu Ph.D. Food Packaging—Roles, Materials, and Environmental Issues. 

6) Food packaging is essential – but circularity of materials is crucial add_circle_outline

Our goal at Huhtamaki is to contribute to a resource-efficient circular economy. Accomplishing this feat requires wider systems and investments in collection and reprocessing infrastructure to achieve higher recycling rates. Whilst most food packaging can be recycled, many of today’s legacy assets that were designed to recover and recycle packaging do not meet the levels of functionality, safety, and hygiene required by modern food systems. As part of Huhtamaki’s commitment to make our entire range of products recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030, we consistently innovate, evaluate, and improve systems and solutions that bring us closer to our ambitions. 

We see waste as a valuable secondary resource, and our focus lies in keeping materials, substances, and by-products in the economy to generate value for as long as possible. To improve material circularity, the first stage requires agreement on the materials as opposed to the end product, supporting innovation and opening new possibilities. The second stage requires investments in fit-for-purpose infrastructure that physically recycle the materials needed by sustainable food systems to function. Taken together, increased circularity and carbon reduction provide our framework for action. 

We are advocates for the systemic change towards low carbon circularity, which goes beyond individual companies as well as bringing value chains together for the welfare of the planet. Collaboration that involves stakeholders from industry, civil society and government is imperative. Through this integration, we see innovation and partnerships as the way forward to building a material-positive system for fit-for-purpose food packaging. In this scenario, the materials which provide access to safe, affordable foods and support food waste prevention, will continue their journey through a low carbon, circular economy and their value to both the planet and people is maximized by efficient recycling systems.