Food packaging represents an enormous source of the world’s waste, used once and tossed. But what potential exists to look beyond the standard cartons, plastics and excessive packaging that crowd supermarket shelves? Slow Food is opening the floor to suggestions with the first edition of the SlowPack Prize, held as part of Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre and open to the food producers who exhibit their products at the event.
The contest aims to encourage producers at the event to reflect on the impact that non-eco-friendly packaging has on the environment and on the flavor, aroma, and safety of their products, while awarding those who use effective environmentally friendly packaging.
Producers in the Slow Food network have long been thinking about innovative ecological packaging. Producers in Campania, Italy, for example, use a completely compostable net to hold their Neapolitan Papaccella peppers. The net is closed manually, without the addition of extra devices or materials, thereby keeping the number of components to a minimum.
Alnif cumin, produced in southeast Morocco, is normally sold at the local market in plastic bags closed with tape. Producers in the Slow Food Presidium, however, now use a low cost recycled card box, constructed without glue by the producers themselves.
In Kenya, the Bukusu community is packaging their Nzoia River reed salt in a simple, environmentally friendly and zero-cost way: two banana leaves from local trees are dried under hot ashes overnight, then folded into a bundle and closed with a fiber from the same leaves. These packages of salt are then sold on the local market, without the need for plastics or other materials.
Since 2008, the producers of Nubìa Red Garlic (Sicily, Italy) have been packaging their garlic using a new style of braid that holds together four heads of garlic and forms a loop at the top which can be used to hang up the garlic bunch. No plastic bags or nets, this approach uses nothing more than the garlic stalks, which are woven together while still flexible, before they dry completely.
The SlowPack Prize 2012 will consider issues such as recovering a traditional way of packaging and conservation; innovation and sustainability with reusable, recyclable and biodegradable materials derived from energy efficient processes; and labels that communicate the product’s characteristics such as the traceability of its ingredients, the history of the product or its uniqueness and indicating the correct way to reuse or dispose of the packaging.
Slow Food is looking forward to seeing what producers have in store. Winners of the 2012 SlowPack Prize will be announced during the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre event, held October 25 – 29 in Turin, Italy.
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