The Ministry of the Environment and food industry organisations the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation, the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa, the Finnish Grocery Trade Association and the Finnish Packaging Association signed a Green Deal “to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic food packaging” in March 2022.
The Green Deal is part of the implementation of the EU’s SUP Directive (2019/904/EU) in Finland. The parties involved in the SUP Green Deal will set numerical reduction targets for the tonnage of packages covered by the Green Deal in 2023. The Green Deal allows for a more cost-effective reduction in the consumption of single-use plastic packaging than legislation since companies will be able to focus on what they consider to be the best measures.
The Green Deal covers cups that are entirely or partly made of plastic as well as packaging for food that can be eaten directly from the packet without any preparation and that is suitable to be consumed by one person in one go. Examples include paper cups with a plastic coating, trays for cherry tomatoes and triangular sandwich packaging that contain plastic, individually sold yoghurt pots and other packaging that contains plastic used for selling portions at the service counter in shops or restaurants.
Very few restaurants and shops stock reusable food containers. The business models for this type of packaging require further development, and they are only suitable for certain products. Single-use food packaging made of fibre usually requires a thin protective plastic film to ensure the product has a good shelf life. Consumers are thought to prefer packaging with a plastic window for some products, such as triangular sandwiches and salads, so that they can check that the product is fresh.
The options are also limited by the fact that national and EU legislation defines precisely which packaging materials are allowed to come into contact with food in order to guarantee food safety and hygiene.
The food industry aims to ensure that reducing single-use plastic packaging neither increases food waste nor puts food safety at risk in Finland. New solutions must be better in terms of their overall environmental impact. The options are also limited by the fact that national and EU legislation defines precisely which packaging materials are allowed to come into contact with food in order to guarantee food safety and hygiene. Packaging containing plastic will, therefore, continue to play an important role.
The food industry needs research, development and innovation to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic packaging while Finland becomes a low-carbon circular economy. Fortunately, every country in Europe is facing the same challenge, so there is a huge market for new packaging solutions and demand is high.
Companies can join the Green Deal on the Sustainable Development Commitment website.
The Finnish Grocery Trade Association (PTY)