The government has approved a project presented by "Os Verdes" (Portuguese environmentalist political party) that determines the need for an alternative to the accessibility of ultralight plastic bags and plastic cuvettes at bread, fruit and vegetable sales points, with commercial areas subject to transgression and fines, to be defined subsequently by the Government. The aim is for ultralight plastic bags with a thickness of less than 15 microns, supplied as a primary packaging for bread, fruit and vegetables in bulk and the cuvettes - packaging or disposable container, usually wrapped in plastic or expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) destined to pack bread, fruits and vegetables.

The environmental concerns are to be taken into account for any material, however, this decision does not prove that the alternatives to plastic have a lower ecological footprint, and the 100% recyclable plastic bag is the most sustainable option because it can be reused and, in its end of life, serve other purposes, says APIP – Portuguese Plastic Industry Association.

What are the solutions for companies?

• Biodegradable / Compostable

The companies, in order to solve this question, could focus on the sale of biodegradable and compostable plastics.

Biodegradable plastic, when compared to traditional plastic, has advantages, such as the degradation period, without losing its primary functionalities: protection, strength and quality. The biodegradable plastic film allows to seal and print on both sides, it is resistant to oils and fats, has a composition naturally anti-static and anti-UV and also represents a barrier against wet products.

Can be used in bakery packaging, fresh food, etc.

The compostable plastics (PLA) also represent an environmentally friendly solution and can be used together with Kraft paper.

Composting can significantly reduce the volume of organic waste and the resultant compost can be used in agriculture and horticulture. About 50% of all household waste is comprised of organic material. This percentage will tend to grow in the future due to the growing popularity of biodegradable products such as packaging.

In addition to its biodegradable nature (in composting plants it takes about 45 days to degrade), the PLA film has other advantages, such as the adequate shelf-life for most of the disposable packaging and the fact that this film is obtained from renewable sources - vegetables.

The degradability main features may be environmentally friendly, but there must be systems and ways to separate or maintain the separation of different types of plastics (marking, specific circuits, etc.) in order to minimize negative effects on composting and recycling).

In this area, the distribution chains also play a major role in prevention as an interface with the consumer. Actions that promote rational and regulated consumption make perfect sense and are necessary, thus discouraging the proliferation and excessive consumption of the products in question.