Food & Beverage

From airtight wraps to shelf stable bottles and containers, plastic packaging plays a key role in delivering a safe food supply, from farm to table and is a material of choice for freezing foods for longer term storage. Plastics have also driven innovations in packaging design. For example, modified atmosphere packaging helps preserve food freshness by capturing a reduced-oxygen air mixture in a plastic package. This technique can extend a product’s shelf life by slowing the growth of bacteria.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulates the safety of food-contact packaging, including plastics used in contact with food. Many plastics, such as polystyrene and polyethylene, have been used in food packaging for decades. All food-contact packaging materials must pass FDA’s stringent approval process—the agency must find them safe for use in a specific packaging application—before they can be put on the market.


A recent national study found that more than 90% of Americans can recycle plastic bottles in their communities. Over 3.0 billion pounds of plastic bottles (for beverages, household cleaners, detergents, etc.) were recycled in the U.S. in 2015. Today nearly 32% of plastic bottles are recycled. (full report here).


Recycling of non-bottle plastic packaging containers (dairy tubs, deli containers, lids, etc.) reached nearly 1.3 billion pounds in 2015, four times the amount recycled in 2007. A recent study found that  more than 60% of Americans now can recycle  these rigid containers , so product labels can identify these containers as “recyclable,” which is expected to help further increase recycling rates.

[READ: How plastics curb food waste]

Learn more about plastics in packaging.