Reducing space: an overview on vacuum food

Sir Edmund Hillary was a New Zealand mountaineer who, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first individuals to successfully summit Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth. Their historic achievement took place on May 29, 1953, and forever cemented their names in mountaineering history. Hillary, born on July 20, 1919, in Auckland, New Zealand, developed a passion for mountains at a young age. After serving in the Royal New Zealand Air Force during World War II, he dedicated his life to exploring andconquering the world’s highest peaks.

Everest, standing at a towering 29,029 feet, became his ultimate goal. In the early 1950s, several expeditions attempted to conquer Everest, but none had succeeded. Hillary joined a British expedition led by Sir John Hunt in 1953. After months of rigorous training, acclimatization, and facing numerous challenges, the team finally reached the South Summit of Everest.

However, the final push to the summit was still ahead, and Hillary and Norgay were chosen to make the historic climb. On that fateful day in May, they began the treacherous ascent, battling harsh weather conditions and extreme cold. After a grueling and arduous climb, they reached the peak at 11:30 am, taking the world by storm. Hillary and Norgay stood on top of the world, achieving what many had deemed impossible.

Their triumph not only demonstrated incredible physical and mental strength but also showcased the spirit of human endeavor and resilience. Hillary’s accomplishment on Everest brought him worldwide acclaim and admiration. He was hailed as a national hero in New Zealand and received numerous honors and awards, including a knighthood. However, Hillary remained humble, always appreciative of the support he received from his team and the local Sherpa people who played a crucial role in the expedition. In the years following his Everest conquest, Hillary continued his mountaineering pursuits and embarked on numerous adventures around the world.

He established the Himalayan Trust, which aimed to improve the lives of the Sherpa people and provide essential services and infrastructure in the remote Himalayan region. Hillary’s legacy extended far beyond his mountaineering achievements. He became a respected humanitarian, working tirelessly for various charitable causes.

His contributions in education, health care, and environmental conservation made a significant impact, not only in Nepal but also in other parts of the world. Sadly, Hillary passed away on January 11, 2008, at the age of 88. However, his legacy lives on, inspiring generations of adventurers and philanthropists. He left behind an indelible mark on both the world of mountaineering and the realm of humanitarian work. Sir Edmund Hillary, the man who conquered Everest, served as a beacon of hope and inspiration.

His unwavering determination and unwavering spirit continue to motivate individuals to pursue their dreams and make a positive difference in the world. In conclusion, Hillary Everest, the first successful summit of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, stands as a testament to the power
of human will and determination. Their achievement not only altered the course of mountaineering history but also exemplified the triumph of the human spirit.

On vacuum-packed food

“Himalayan rations usually consist of a combination of bulk stores taken out from England or obtained in India and of foodstuffs purchased locally in the Himalayas. Rice, potatoes, tsampa (coarse flour made from roasted barley), dhal (a kind of lentil), eggs, chickens and meat are the chief foods available locally; fresh fruit and vegetables are seldom, if ever, obtainable. The earlier Everest expeditions took with them a great variety of bulk stores.

Later expeditions have come to depend increasingly on local food supplies, limiting their bulk stores to essential items not procurable locally, such as tea, powdered milk, sugar, jam, biscuits and butter […] Nor do they eliminate wastage. As much as 20% of a bag of cubes may be rendered unusable from powdering in the bag itself; a half-eaten cube may be drawn through the bars of the basket into the cage and abandoned, while the animal gets to work on a new one. The fragments get mixed up with the bedding or fall through the wire bottom of the cage, out of reach.

All these may be faults in fabrication of the cube or of the baskets, but they are common faults, pointing to an inherent weakness in the system. Lastly, there is the question of palatability or acceptability. Why are the fragments pulled through the wires, abandoned and not eaten? Why do young guinea-pigs (especially) pick up pellets from the hopper and promptly drop them in the cages to seek, in vain, for something more to their
taste?

All rodents will readily consume whole grains, and cereals must form a high proportion of their diet. The extra protein, from fish meal, skim milk and the like, can as easily be compounded in granules of similar size as in any other form, and be given alongside, in the same hopper. There is no difficulty about
providing a suitable hopper for such a mixed diet; indeed, such hoppers have been in use in some laboratories for years. ”

(Himalayan Rations with Special Reference to the 1953 Expedition to Mount Everest By L. G. C. PUGH, Division of Human Physiology, Medical Research Council Laboratories, Hampstead, London, N. W.3)

vacuum packed food

Vacuum-packed food refers to food products that have been sealed in airtight packaging to extend their shelf life. This packaging method involves removing the air from the package before sealing it, which helps to prevent spoilage and preserve the freshness of the food. Vacuum-packed food is commonly used in both commercial and residential settings, offering numerous benefits to consumers and businesses alike.

One of the main advantages of vacuum-packed food is its ability to maintain the flavor and nutritional value of the product for an extended period. By removing the oxygen from the packaging, the growth of bacteria, yeast, and molds is significantly slowed down, thereby prolonging the shelf life of the food. With conventional packaging, these organisms thrive in the presence of oxygen, leading to spoilage and degradation of the food quality. Vacuum packaging effectively prevents this, ensuring that the food reaches consumers in optimal condition.

Additionally, vacuum-packed food reduces the risk of freezer burn, which is a common problem when storing food in a freezer for an extended period. Freezer burn occurs when air comes into contact with the food, causing dehydration and oxidation of the surface. This can result in the development of unpleasant textures and flavors in the food. By vacuum-sealing the food, the presence of air is eliminated, effectively preventing freezer burn and thus preserving the taste and texture of the product.

Vacuum packaging also improves the storage efficiency of food. The removal of air from the package significantly reduces its size, enabling more efficient use of space in refrigerators, freezers, and pantries. This is particularly beneficial in commercial settings where large quantities of food need to be stored, as it
allows for better organization and maximizes storage capacity. Furthermore, vacuum-packed food is an excellent option for those looking to reduce food waste. With extended shelf life, vacuum-sealed products can enjoy a longer lifespan, minimizing the likelihood of them being thrown away due to spoilage.

This not only saves money but also has positive environmental implications by reducing the amount of food that ends up in landfills. Along with its advantages, it is important to note that vacuum packaging may not be suitable for all types of food. Some products, such as soft cheeses, fruits with high water content, and raw mushrooms, can experience adverse effects when vacuum-packed, as the absence of air can lead to changes in texture and flavor. It is crucial for manufacturers and consumers to carefully assess the compatibility of specific foods with vacuum packaging to ensure optimal results.

Vacuum-packed food offers numerous benefits for both consumers and businesses. With its ability to preserve flavor and nutritional value, prevent freezer burn, enhance storage efficiency, and reduce food waste, vacuum packaging has become an increasingly popular method in the food industry. However, it is important to consider the compatibility of specific foods with this packaging method to ensure the best results. Overall, vacuum-packed food provides a convenient and effective solution for prolonging the shelf life of various food products.

vacuum packaging

Solid waste management and vacuum-packed food

The world faces two adverse situations regarding solid waste management: food waste and packaging waste. These two major solid waste contributors lead to economic, environmental, and social challenges. The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that 45% of total US solid waste consists of these two wastes, and though we have many technologies for managing our global waste, the majority still goes to landfill.

Let’s start with food waste

Astonishingly, more than one third of the total food produced globally is not consumed and goes to waste. The annual global value of food-as-waste is $1 trillion and it weighs 1.3 billion tonnes. To help visualize the amount, imagine an area larger than China that grows food that becomes waste. All the hungry people in the world can be fed on less than quarter of the food that is wasted, according to Alessandro Demaio, CEO of Norway-based EAT, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) fighting worldwide hunger. Food waste happens at all stages: production, processing, transportation, retail, and consumer. Some of the waste is unavoidable; however, the majority can be prevented. The issue doesn’t end here. The wasted food uses 25% of all water used every year for agricultural purposes.

Now, let’s look at plastic waste

Plastic waste has been a hot topic among environmentalists. And, globally, its management has become a pressing priority.
Among all the plastic waste, packaging waste has been targeted because the rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with their disposal. Today, single-use plastics account for 40% of plastics produced every year and many of these products — such as plastic
bags, food wrappers, and food packaging — have a lifespan of mere minutes to hours, even though they remain in the environment for hundreds of years. Plastic is polluting our lands, oceans, and affecting planet life.

foodpacks

How the “waste” debate adds up

People have been debating whether plastics create more damage to the earth than benefit. Let us evaluate this from food packaging point of view.

Plastics, being non-biodegradable, remains on the land and in oceans. Their impact is visible everywhere. But the decomposition of food, which everyone thinks degrades naturally, is a significant contributor to global warming.

Environmental impact of waste is calculated as Global Warming Potential (GWP), which is higher for food waste than for packaging waste. Research says that 1 tonne of food in a landfill yields 1,010 kilograms of CO2, which is same amount of CO2 emitted if you drove for 2,000 miles. In addition, food decomposition also emits methane, which is more potent to the environment in terms of global warming potential. If food waste or loss was a country, then it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Another way of thinking about the impact of waste is to consider the amount of energy used in production. If we measure the water and energy used to manufacture food products — as well as the energy used in transportation, storage, and cooking — its collective impact on environment would be much higher than its packaging. For example, bread production consumes 15.8 megajoules (MJ) of energy, while packaging of bread requires 1.4MJ of energy for production. This might imply that, by removing packaging, we can save 1.4MJ of energy. But without packaging, accelerated spoiling of bread will lead to loss of 15.8MJ of energy.

There is one more aspect to food waste’s environmental impact: excess nutrients from land enter the water and changes its composition and pH by feeding algae and bacteria. This also results in a change in oxygen levels, killing off fish and causing an imbalance in the marine ecosystem.

There is no doubt that food waste is causing more burden on the environment than packaging waste. Food waste or losses are even more disturbing when we know that millions of people still do not get enough food to eat. A study from the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) claims that two thirds of food waste is due to spoilage, while one third is due to oversupply.

In the prevailing scenario, it is crucial that we have methodologies to minimize food waste through packaging, while also optimizing the whole packaging cycle to have minimum impact on environment. For the circular economy and sustainable development, all resources should be used to their maximum, whether it be packaging or food.

So, rather than eliminating packaging, the industry should choose packaging materials and designs that keep food from spoiling.

Packaging solutions to help minimize food waste.

Food waste or losses happen at every stage, be it food production, transportation, storage, processing, or cooking. Packaging plays a major role in eliminating or minimizing losses during transportation and storage.

Another way of protecting food and reducing packaging is to tap into new technologies like these three: active packaging, barrier films, and nanotechnology.

  1. Active packaging, such as modified atmospheric packaging (MAP), contributes to preventing fresh produce losses. The right packaging, coupled with correct storage temperatures, can extend a product’s shelf life by creating conditions in the packaging that delay maturation and ageing of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Barrier films contain small amounts of barrier materials or coatings to protect against oxygen and/or moisture, and thus enhance the food’s shelf life while minimizing the amount of packaging. However, sometimes barrier layers prevent the multilayer film from being recyclable. So only use them when needed. On the other hand, a low-barrier film may result in food spoilage sooner and losses.
  3. Nanotechnology has recently emerged in food packaging to help extend shelf life. You can enhance a package’s barrier properties by using nanoparticles such as clay, which when mixed with polymer matrix improves the gas barrier. Other nanotech examples are silver nanoparticles that can improve the anti- microbial properties, or nanosensors added to smart packaging as a tracking device for food safety. Using these technologies, you can prevent or minimize food waste without negatively affecting recyclability since nanomaterials are added in such small concentrations that they don’t affect recyclability of the base packaging material.

You could conduct a life-cycle analysis that measures the amount of food waste for two different packaging systems (based on size) of the same product, to determine the effect of the packaging size. For example, packaging for sliced cheese has a much higher global warming potential than the packaging for a block of cheese, but the food waste was significantly higher for the block compared with the sliced product.
Communicating the function of packaging — such as information about food freshness, safety, and standardized date labeling — can also affect food waste. This helps in inventory control and monitoring the shelf life of food products.

Finding the right balance

The environmental impact of packaging has typically been focused on its direct impacts — the life cycle of the packaging material itself — without regard to the indirect influence on food waste. But when designing packaging for a food product, evaluate the environmental impact of both food waste and packaging waste to assess the overall consequence.

Apart from this, you can reduce the adverse outcomes of a package by: removing excessive packaging; using smart packaging; reducing the packaging weight; choosing recycled content and/or renewable materials; and improving on the collection and recycling of empty packaging.

Few changes in packaging functionality and design may have a great impact on preventing food waste and losses. It’s a fine balance of protecting food adequately and using packaging materials optimally. We must do both to save resources, reduce environmental impact, and increase overall system efficiency.

For food, use short and local food supply chains, and efficient packaging. For packaging, eco-designing, reusing, and better recycling can be complementary strategies for developing a circular economy.

As final words, we can definitely underline that vacuum packed foods have several benefits, including extended shelf life and preservation of freshness. The removal of air from the packaging inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi that cause food spoilage and gives the food a longer shelf life. This process also keeps the food fresh, prevents dehydration, and helps retain its aroma, flavor, and nutrients. Additionally, vacuum packing reduces the need for preservatives and additives, making it a healthier option. It also prevents freezer burn in frozen foods. Overall, vacuum packed food is a convenient and practical way to store and preserve food.

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Kyt Lyn Walken is the official European representative and instructor for Hull's Tracking School (Virginia, USA), and is a certified Conservation Ranger for C.R.O.W. (Conservation Rangers Operations Worldwide). She has been an outdoors and tracking enthisast since childhood. She is contributor as a writer for several magazines in U.S. and U.K.Kyt is author of the manuals "The importance of being a Tracker", "The Urban Tracker, "Tracking Compendium" (this one with Andy Martin), "Jungle Trackers: S.A.S. In Malesia and Borneo".

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