Plastics uses in Food Packaging


It can’t be denied that Plastics are now used almost everywhere. Be its use in a manufacturing plant, or in making a portable chair and many more…

The main uses of plastics are listed below in easy bullet points-


1. To make Rigid Plastic containers (RPC)-

A Rigid plastic container is so rigid that it maintains the same shape, whether it is empty or full. The main uses of RPC are in making bottles, jars, pots, tubs, and trays, etc. The minimum volume of an RPC can be at least 236.588mL (8 US fluid ounces) and a maximum of 18.9271 Litres (5 gallons).

A 236.588mL (8 fluid ounces) water bottle |

A 5-gallon (18.92liters)_Jar

2. Flexible Plastic Films-

We can feel the presence of Flexible packaging in our daily lives. For example, the potato chips packets we eat in the form of snacks are packed in the Flexible packaging only. Flexible packaging may be layered with different plastics like Polypropylene (PP), PET Film, etc. One flexible packaging material, Cellophane is discussed in detail in this post.

Flexible plastic films are used in the form of bags, sachets, pouches, heat sealable flexible materials, etc.

A Lays Potato chips packet made of Flexible packaging, with two horizontal heat seals on the top and bottom and a vertical seal on the back

Similarly, flexible packaging is also used in making sachets of hair shampoos, chocolate pellets for Cadbury GEMS, etc.


3. Combination with paperboards

We are becoming dependent on processes foods as it provides us convenience. One such example is Cardboard Milk Cartons. They are widely consumed nowadays due to their multiple servings with refrigeration and prevention from external contaminations.

  Milk Carton made from Paperboard

In the above figure, we can see a Milk carton which is made by combining plastics with paperboard, so that strength is also maintained and flexibility is up to the mark.


4. Use as a Diaphragm for product protection

Plastic diaphragms are applied to jars or bottle openings to prevent any post packaging changes to the product. They prevent air insertion into the contents inside the bottles

A diaphragm applied to the plastic bottle opening

5. Plastic bands for external Tamper-evident packaging

We observe that to open a few plastic jars, we have to rotate the cap either in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction, then only the seal breaks and we can finally open the cap. These types of tamper-evident packaging are used to avoid external tampering of the bottles.

Removal of this black integral band allows the hinged snap-cap to function

6. Pouring and dispensing devices

Plastics are widely used to pour liquid food items in hot or cold servings, also to dispense large amounts of liquids such as water. They are made up of strong and durable food-grade plastic materials.

A Fill Master machine, March 26, 2012, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The 19th MDSS Pharmacy fills approximately 20,000 prescriptions for patients a month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rusty Frank)

7. To group individual packs into multipacks

Individual cans or jars are sometimes difficult to transport, so grouping individual packs into multipacks helps to ease transportation. Plastic containers having grooves to hold multiple jars are used for grouping.

For example, high cone rings are used to collate multiple cans and beers.

         Plastic hi-cone rings for grouping multiple cans

8. Plastic films for Shrink or stretch wrapping

Stretch wrapping is a tight wrapping of plastics like LDPE (Low-Density Poly-ethylene) around the product that may be perishable or not.

   Stretch film wrapping around a group of cardboard boxes

In Shrink wrapping, initially, a plastic film is loosely wrapped around a product and then the application of heat shrinks the film completely around the product. Below shown image is of a slaughtered pig’s head being shrink wrapped

A pig’s head shrink wrapped in plastic film to prevent contamination

9. Plastic films used as labels on bottles and jars

The plastic films are widely used as labels on the plastic bottles to display the brand name and other mandatory information like price, nutritional information, bar code, expiry date, etc. These plastic labels are applied to the bottles either by the heat shrink process or by using glue to stick.

          Minecraft water bottle plastic labels


10. Plastics used as components of coatings, adhesives & inks

Plastics are applied as a coating on the products. However, before applying, plastics are mixed with other materials like Regenerated Cellulose, paperboard, aluminum foil, etc. to increase the properties of the materials. Plastics are also added to the adhesives for the same purpose.

So, these 10 points enlist the basic modern uses of plastics in food packaging.

Please comment on what you are feeling !!

Content Reference- Plastics in food packaging 174 – MARK J. KIRWAN and JOHN W. STRAWBRIDGE            

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