Proper Packaging Reduces Food Waste

It’s summertime and peach season. But it seems there is a tiny window of opportunity for eating them at their ripest. Often they are too hard one minute, and then too soft, brown and mushy the next.

There are similar problems with bananas or other fresh produce. Consumers have to make sure that they quickly eat what they bring home from the store orSpotted banana wind up throwing much of it away.

A packaging advocacy group in England has started a campaign to help with this problem. The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) has launched a campaign, called “The Good, The Bad and The Spudly,” to counter negative publicity on packaging, help reduce food waste, and increase awareness of wasteful food habits, both domestically and throughout the supply chain, reports edieWaste.

Packaging fresh food makes it last longer, says ICPEN director Jane Bickerstaffe. “People have been fed a diet of ‘packaging is bad’ — they will avoid packaging and buy unpackaged and wonder why it’s gone off.” (That’s “gone bad” in American English.)

“It’s very difficult, people aren’t interested in packaging,” she says. “What they want is their food in good condition so that’s the message we need to promote — if you want fresh peas, then buy the packaged option, especially frozen.”

Not only does packaging keep food fresher longer, but over the past 20 years, there have been numerous innovations in food packaging material. “Packaging has got cleverer and cleverer at doing more with less,” she says. “There’s always room for improvement, there is some not very good packaging out there but we think it’s in the minority. I believe that all parts of the [packaging] supply chain are trying [to be better].”

And packaging is much cheaper relative to the overall cost of the food supply chain. Bickerstaffe explains further:

More than 10 times more resources are invested in making the food than in the few grams of packaging that’s used to protect it… The packaging is a sensible investment in resources and if manufacturers can use it well, it will keep their costs down as well as their environmental impacts — it’s a win-win situation.

A challenge that the food industry has is to communicate these benefits to consumers so that they change their purchasing habits. Also, materials in food packaging have become more complex. This creates a challenge for reprocessing. However, complex packaging such as a foil laminate pack is just as environmentally friendly as other recyclable materials because it uses less material at the design state.

In any case, more collaboration was needed throughout the food supply chain, Bickerstaffe says: “To understand the environmental impact of packaging you have to have to engage with not only the raw material suppliers, the packaging manufacturers, the brands and the retailers — but reprocessors, councils and the waste management sector, too.”

Source: “’Reduce waste, buy packaged’ crusade looks to bust food waste myths,” edieWaste, 8/2/13
Source: “The Good, The Bad and The Spudly,” YouTube
Image by Slewrate.