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Environmental Effects of Canned Foods

Dec 02, 2019

From canned walnuts to canned Escargot - say what you will, but you can't argue with the fact that canned foods are here to stay. We have accepted canned food as part of our modern lifestyle without giving any thought to their effects on the environment and our well-being. The following article will discuss the pros and cons of this modern convenience.


People don't realize it at first, but canned foods have benefits beyond serving convenient functions for those times when there's no time to cook, or when you are camping.

Firstly, with the new, thinner materials used for cans, greater energy saving is possible. In older days, cans were 40 % thicker and quite heftier, which means that the energy consumed was at least 40 % greater than it is today. Nevertheless, you will argue that the materials used would have to mine and processed, which will consume vast amounts of energy. Fortunately for us, eco-minded individuals, recycling just one aluminum can translate to energy savings of 95 % while recycled steel cans will save at least 60 % energy. Ultimately, the more you recycle cans, the greater your contribution to energy saving becomes.

Additionally, cans are more sustainable in the long run, than other packaging types. For instance, paper packaging has a greater chance of contamination since it can easily be damaged - not to mention the trees needed for the paper. Another crucial point is that the canning process ensures that harmful microorganisms are eradicated before the can is tightly sealed. Once sealed, microorganisms cannot enter the contents, thus, protecting consumers from food poisoning. Obviously, this is with the assumption that safety precautions like keeping to the expiry date are followed.

Professional nutritionists state that canned foods are as nutritious as frozen or fresh produce. As a matter of fact, dissimilar to most fresh foods picked before they have ripened - to account for the travel period to the markets, canned foods are typically made from ripened fruits and vegetables, which are better sources of nutrients than their unripe equivalents. You should also have to keep in mind that the carbon footprint left by the handling and storage of frozen and fresh foods before they reach consumers' tables is significant. Now, contrast that with canned foods. As soon as the cans are packaged, they will require no energy beyond the space they occupy on the shelves.


Certainly, canned foods have their shortcomings as well. Nutritionists point to the considerable reduction of mineral and vitamins that are sensitive to heat - which is destroyed during the canning process. Vitamin C and folic acid are two important nutrients that are lost in this manner.

Secondly, the amount of sodium, sugar and other preservatives can be harmful to health. To counteract it, read the labels and choose the low-sugar, and low-salt canned foods.

Notwithstanding this, the benefits of canned foods to today's busy lifestyle far outweigh their shortcomings. So make sure your larder is stocked with a variety of essentials from canned tomatoes to peach slices. Moreover, remember to do your bit for the environment by recycling your used cans!