- CIHEAM Zaragoza organizes and hosts an advanced course for professionals on recyclable, biodegradable, active and intelligent food packaging
The food packaging sector uses more than 40 % of the world plastic production. Plastic is the material most commonly used for this purpose but it is also one of the biggest pollutants. Reduction of plastic waste through new recycling solutions and the development of new materials are key elements to progress towards the circular economy and to protect the planet, as pointed out by Cristina Nerín, researcher from the University of Zaragoza and scientific coordinator of the advanced course in recyclable, biodegradable, active and intelligent food packaging organized by CIHEAM Zaragoza.
She also underlines another fundamental concern: “The two main challenges for the sector are how to reduce plastic waste and food waste. In order to achieve this, we need to develop better technologies to improve plastic recycling and produce new packaging materials to prolong the shelf life of food products”.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATING THE CONSUMER
Nerin goes on to mention another critical aspect; educating the consumer in order to tackle the issue of plastic waste and food waste. As an expert in food safety she recognizes that there is still work to be done, besides food labelling and adds that we need to explain to the general public how to use the plastics and packaging of the foods they consume:
“In theory there are already compostable and biodegradable materials available on the market but the consumers do not know how to deal with them or how to treat them. For example whether they have to use the yellow bin for plastic recycling or dispose of them together with organic waste”.
It is precisely for this reason that professionals working in food packaging have gathered in CIHEAM Zaragoza to attend the advanced course from 14 to 18 November addressing the current challenges faced by the sector on this issue.
This international course has combined theoretical lectures and international case studies presented by professionals, together with applied group work. There were 19 participants (12 face-to-face and 7 online) from 7 countries (Egypt, Italy, Lebanon, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey).
TECHNICAL VISIT TO AITIIP TECHNOLOGICAL CENTRE
Participants in the advanced course for professionals also had the opportunity to visit Aitiip Technological Centre, a private, non-profit organization located on the Empresarium industrial estate in Zaragoza whose primary purpose is the promotion of technological activities of plastics processing and mould manufacturing and matrices.
During the visit, the participants saw first-hand how new materials were produced and learnt more about the technologies applied in the production of food packaging, such as injection, blow moulding, extrusion, casting, thermoforming and 3D printing.