The role of packaging in fighting food waste and food loss
Nearly 1/2 of all fruit and vegetables are thrown away each year. According to The Guardian and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "about a third of all the world's food goes to waste": in the US alone, 30% of all food is wasted, while the amount of food thrown away each year in Europe could feed more than 200 million people. If food waste were a country, it would ultimately be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide - accounting for 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide -.
Food waste - "the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers" - and food loss - "the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers" - are well-known issues.
Indeed, even though, at first, food waste and food loss might not seem environment-related problems, they do play a major part in the climate change process; it is enough to consider that producing, transporting and letting food rot is accountable for 8-10% of global greenhouse gases, since wasted food usually ends up on landfills, where it goes through an anaerobic decomposition process which causes methane and CO2 emissions. Moreover, wasting food means wasting all the energy and water it previously took to grow, package and transport it - and, of course, all these activities do have an impact on climate change -.
Besides, according to a report from RMIT University, the global population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050, which means that the demand for food is going to increase by 77% despite the lower capacity to produce enough food products because of climate change, erosion, competing land uses and diminishing supply of clean water; an actual John Nash's Prisoner's dilemma.
The value of packaging in delivering proper food security
It will come as no surprise that fighting food loss and food waste is one of the major challenges of our era, given that cutting this large waste of food would improve food security and nutrition, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase productivity and economic growth and, last but not least, lower the pressure on water and land resources.
Now, packaging does play a key role in this matter, even though it is usually viewed ad having a negative impact on the environment.
The truth is that food packaging is a key factor in the management of food security, given that it can protect food and its organoleptic properties from the field to the store, whilst increasing its shelf life and improving the storage process. Because of that, food packaging can actually be seen - and used - as a tool to reduce food waste in the supply chain of the future and protect the environment from the threatening consequences of climate change, by preserving the resources (most importantly, water and soil) that are used to grow and produce it.
Therefore, it is important to design packages that protect food properly and allow the consumer to use the product fully.
Why aseptic carton is the best choice: IPI's approach to sustainability
IPI is a leading provider of complete aseptic packaging systems and solutions. IPI offers multilayer sustainable carton packaging made of 70% paperboard, which can be retrieved from FSC® responsibly managed forests.
Multilayer carton packaging is the best when it comes to food waste: indeed, not only IPI cartons are environmentally sustainable, but they are also aseptic, meaning that they can keep food safe from harmful bacteria, nutritious and flavorsome - thanks to the aseptic filling and sealing process - and healthy for a long time, with no need of preservatives and refrigeration.
In short, by erasing the need for refrigeration, not only can UHT technology save on major energy use and costs, but it can also make food products safely available everywhere, especially in the developing regions of the world. This, paired with smaller, downsized packaging, allows for a better and smarter management of the product throughout the whole supply chain, since the consumer is not forced into unnecessary overconsumption and unavoidable food spoilage. Moreover, downsized packaging is also the perfect fit for on-the-go consumption, a trend that is here to stay. Nowadays, more and more pople are always on the move, but still want to enjoy a good meal or snack, whilst keeping portion-size and food safety control: smaller packaging facilitates all of this and prevents food waste, even in rush situations.
On top of that, IPI's Twist cap, which is available also in bio-based material - that is another environmental bonus point -, allows for a more convenient use whilst helping to preserve the product more conveniently, once the package is open; this is a good example of how the smart management of closure systems can easily minimize waste generation in households.
Protecting food and preventing spoilage have always been major prerequisites for food packaging. However, the problem of food waste is increasingly getting more and more attention: today's food production accounts indeed for one-third of climate impact and it is now finally being assessed because of its huge environmental, humanitarian and economic consequences, that will only get worse as global population continues to grow and climate change becomes more critical.
In this matter, we should not see food packaging as part of the problem - as it has always been -, but rather as a solution: smarter packaging can tackle food waste by reducing resource spoilage and promoting more sustainable consumption behavior. The time has come for the food and packaging industry to take a greater responsibility in properly understanding and tackling global as well as environmental consumer needs.
More than food packaging: cartons can protect the environment too.