In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards environmental and health awareness. For this reason, the use of non-biodegradable materials, such as plastic, in food packaging is becoming increasingly less popular among consumers.
"A number of studies have been carried out recently by different universities on the composition of the world's sea salt, which would point to 90% of it being contaminated with microplastics; a percentage that rises to 100% in the case of Spain. I think that single-use plastic should be eliminated immediately from the supermarket shelves. We have to start putting the welfare of human beings above business returns," says Alberto Palmí, manager of the Spanish Federation of Wood Packaging and its Components (FEDEMCO), which has recently launched a video called "Mi vida como caja" ("My life as a box"), which is being presented in different European countries and shows the whole process behind the manufacture and use of wooden boxes and their impact on society and the economy.
With a society that is increasingly more aware of these issues, the demand for alternative packaging to plastic is on the rise. This includes wooden boxes and baskets. "This year, due to the inclement weather and its impact on the crops, the figures achieved by all types of packaging are lower than in other years. However, regarding the market share at a general level, we are seeing a growth of various wooden formats, mainly the small ones; that is, those that compete directly with small plastic containers."
According to Alberto Palmí, wooden packaging is the format par excellence.
"We have always been here; the rest have copied our formats and lately even the wood's patterns, but if you have to highlight something, it is that the material is natural, environmentally-friendly, recyclable and biodegradable, and that it meets every legal requirement in the field of packaging."
Besides its possible environmental impact, plastic packaging can also be harmful to people's health, according to recent research such as AGR159 "Pesticide Residues" of the University of Almeria. This has shown that the packaging of plastic can inadvertently transfer harmful substances into food.
"This study is just one of many, and as more research is done, you can no doubt be sure that we will be surprised. Do not forget that plastic is a derivative of oil, and oil is a great pollutant. I believe that consumers are aware of the problems that the use of plastic entails; the debate on social media is intense when these issues are addressed, and people are increasingly coming to terms with reality. In this case, however, the other links of the food supply chain also have to be aware of the great problem they are helping generate. Unfortunately, the problem won't be solved simply by eliminating plastic bags," says Alberto Palmí.
The manager of FEDEMCO points out that "wood is a healthier and more sustainable alternative which has always been there, but has also improved a lot. We already have all the packaging solutions to replace any other material. With wood, the products arrive in perfect condition to any part of the world, because the characteristics of our material are unequaled. There are no surprises when you open the container in another part of the planet and it is unbeatable in different temperature and humidity conditions. Furthermore, the designs are currently very good, although we continue researching and making progress every day in order to meet the market's needs. The return to the traditional doesn't entail taking a step back, but quite the opposite. If it was good for everything and everyone, why not go back to what we had before?"