Mundiriso - logo

Sustainable packaging: new trends in the rice sector

Rice sustainable packaging

In recent years, sustainability has become a vital requirement and has also involved the activities of rice companies and their production methods.

As one of the world’s most widely consumed foods and an essential part of the diet of billions of people, rice accounts for a significant share of the global food market. But it is not only about the way rice is grown: the way it is packaged, distributed and sold also has a huge impact on the environment.

Aware of the environmental challenges and growing consumer expectations, companies in the industry are confronted with the issue of packaging, looking for solutions that are not only functional, but also environmentally friendly.

The environmental impact of traditional packaging

As one of the pillars of the food industry, rice production generates a significant amount of product and, as a result, also an enormous amount of packaging. Traditionally, packaging materials in B2B commerce are chosen with durability, efficiency and cost savings in mind, while retail companies also have to consider marketing strategies. Accordingly, plastic, polystyrene and other petroleum derivatives have dominated the packaging landscape for decades.

However, this has had considerable consequences. The production of plastics and other synthetic materials consumes large amounts of resources and energy and releases a considerable amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. But the real problem comes at the end of the product life cycle. After the rice has been consumed, the packaging often ends up in landfills or, even worse, in water, which is washed into the oceans. It is estimated that millions of tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year, harming marine life and entering the food chain.

It is now well known that the use of plastics also has a direct impact on biodiversity. Nowadays, policies to reduce plastic consumption are being introduced to prevent certain animal species from being seriously endangered. In Italy, for example, the use of single-use plastic, such as straws, plates, glasses, etc., has been banned since 2022.

Furthermore, the European Commission endorsed guidelines at the end of 2022 in relation to the reduction of packaging waste, with the aim of repurposing. The goal is that by 2030, in line with the European ecological agenda, all packaging will be recyclable.

There are three key aspects:

  • limiting the production of superfluous packaging and enhancing repurposing and recycling strategies;
  • encouraging the adoption of high quality, recyclable packaging at affordable costs;
  • reducing the use of natural raw materials, minimising waste and increasing the use of recycled plastic.

Benefits of sustainable packaging for B2B companies

In the coming months, the use of sustainable packaging may not be simply a choice, but a legal obligation. However, in addition to the objective of compliance with legal regulations, adopting sustainable packaging policies at this stage can have other benefits as well.

  • Long-term financial savings: while the initial investment in sustainable packaging solutions may seem more expensive than traditional options, the long-term savings are significant. More sustainable materials often last longer and can reduce the costs associated with disposal.
  • Brand and corporate image enhancement: today’s consumers are becoming increasingly informed and aware of environmental issues. By choosing to adopt sustainable packaging, companies can position themselves as conscious and caring brands from the outset, gaining the trust of their clients.
  • Responding to client needs: packaging is not only about protecting and presenting the product, but also about presenting the company’s values. With an increasing number of consumers prioritising sustainability in their purchasing decisions, offering products with eco-friendly packaging is not only an ethical choice, but also a strategic move.
  • Innovation and market differentiation: in a competitive market like the rice market, differentiation is essential. By adopting innovative and sustainable packaging techniques, companies can set themselves apart from competitors and position themselves as pioneers in the industry.

The main trends in sustainable packaging in the rice sector

As the demand for more sustainable packaging solutions grows, the industry responds with innovation and creativity. The transition from traditional synthetic materials to those that can decompose naturally is a significant step towards a greener future. Raw materials such as corn starch, cellulose, and even fungi and algae are becoming the basis for new types of biodegradable packaging.

However, understanding the difference between compostable, biodegradable and recyclable packaging is essential.

  • Compostable packaging: this is designed to decompose in a composting environment, turning into compost, which can be used as a natural fertiliser in gardening and agriculture. Decomposition takes place through the action of microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, under specific conditions relating to humidity, temperature and the presence of oxygen. Not all compostable materials decompose at the same rate; some require an industrial composting system to decompose completely. Under European legislation, however, for packaging to be considered compostable it must meet certain requirements set out in the European standard EN 13432.
  • Biodegradable packaging: this type of packaging is similar in characteristics to compostable packaging. However, the term biodegradable does not specify the time it takes for the material to decompose or the conditions necessary for its complete degradation. As a result, it may be that some materials defined as biodegradable take a long time to decompose or leave microscopic residues in the environment. In fact, biodegradation does not guarantee that the material is non-toxic or that it is suitable for composting.
  • Recyclable packaging: this refers to the ability of a material to be reused and transformed into new products, reducing the need to produce new raw materials. However, not all recyclable materials are actually recycled; this depends on the availability of recycling infrastructure and separate waste collection.

Strategies for creating sustainable packaging

One of the key points in sustainable packaging production involves the reduction of plastic. Companies are exploring alternatives such as glass, cardboard and metal, or are adopting recycled or plant-based plastics. This not only reduces the amount of new plastic produced, but also encourages a culture of recycling and reuse.

Companies are also devising campaigns that reduce the use of packaging. Simpler, more functional designs are emerging that reduce the use of materials and minimise waste.

In this respect, technology could also offer an interesting contribution. The adoption of QR codes providing information on sustainability or intelligent indicators signalling product freshness are examples of how technology is revolutionising packaging. These tools not only improve the consumer experience but also promote greater environmental awareness.

These trends are only the beginning. With continued innovation and increasing demand for environmentally friendly solutions, we can expect further developments in the near future. The key, as always, will be the balance between functionality, aesthetics and environmental responsibility.