How Packaging Can Help Reduce Food Waste
Food and beverage packaging has an unfair reputation for spoiling the countryside, polluting the oceans and harming wildlife. As a result, there are many drives to reduce the amount of packaging used in the food industry. However, wasted food is also an environmental problem, which packaging can help solve. In this article, Robert Glass, global food and beverage communications manager at ABB, explains how packaging can be used to reduce the amount of food wasted, and have a positive effect on the environment.
According to The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, one third of food produced for human consumption is wasted. This amounts to an annual total of approximately 1.3 billion tonnes worldwide.
This waste occurs throughout the supply chain. Food waste can occur at the farm, in transit, and during manufacturing. Further down the supply chain, supermarkets and consumers discard food that’s not visually appealing or has reached its expiration date.
By reducing waste, the food industry can reduce energy consumption, benefiting the environment and saving businesses money. Moreover, livestock, in particular cattle, are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the waste of beef products will result in fewer cattle contributing to these emissions unnecessarily. Overall, food packaging plays an important role in helping to reduce food waste and minimize the amount of packaging used. Here are five ways this can be achieved.
Many people discard food that is still safe to eat, simply because they’re unsure how long the packaging has been open or they feel it has been open “too long.” Some avoid this by writing the date on packaging when its opened, but this is difficult to sustain.
An alternative solution is intelligent packaging, which involves a small patch of smart plastic that changes color with the surrounding conditions. This could be used to indicate how long packaging has been open and allows the consumer to only discard food that is unsafe to eat.
Delivery drivers could also use intelligent packaging to monitor the condition of the food they transport and adapt their processes to improve food preservation. This would result in less food being discarded on arrival.
Since the 1960s, the number of single-person households has dramatically increased. However, perishable foods, such as meat, are still packaged with family cooking in mind and packaging only helps to preserve them when sealed. This means small households often end up throwing away the remaining unused food once the packaging has been opened.
To help reduce this, in 2016, Sainsbury’s launched snap-pack packaging for its Taste the Difference sausages. The sausages come in packs of eight, with a peelable seal splitting them into two sets of four. This means four sausages can be consumed and the other four remain enclosed in sealed packaging.
You can read the entire article in our upcoming print magazine Potato Processing International (March/April 2019).