It’s hard to escape talk of resolutions as the new year begins. Conversations this time of year often are peppered with individuals’ pledges and commitments for self-betterment. While wishing best of luck to friends and family on keeping with their goals for 2013, all the discussion of resolutions might give us pause to consider what we can do in our role as a supplier in the food and beverage industry to make a difference this year (and beyond).
One area that stands out as an opportunity for improvement is reducing food waste. As an organization focused on food packaging and hygiene solutions, many of our company’s products and services are designed to minimize food waste. It’s a highly important topic, perhaps more so globally than simply in the United States where we enjoy the safest, most abundant food supply in world history. But the problem of hunger exists for many around the world, a fact made sadder when considering all the wasted food that never reaches those who need it most.
Considering the following statistics, it is clear that action must be taken to significantly reduce food waste:
- 40 percent of the food produced in the world is never eaten because of lack of access, poor handling and excessive buying
- In the U.S. alone, the food we waste consumes 300 billion barrels of oil and one quarter of all the available fresh water worldwide per year
- 25,000 people die of hunger each day despite the fact there is enough food produced to provide every person in the world 3,000 calories per day
- Consumers are responsible for 60 percent of total food waste; 61 percent of that consumer food waste is avoidable
Reducing Food Waste, Sustainably
Taking a life cycle approach to evaluating sustainability, packaging contributes more benefits to the supply chain than it consumes. Packaging represents just 10 percent of energy usage in the food supply chain, but helps to make sure all the energy used in transporting, retailing, shopping, cooking and storing food and beverages does not go to waste.
Effective packaging contributes to improved efficiency, minimized food spoilage and reduced food waste in several areas:
- Extending shelf life and freshness
- Preventing product damage
- Incorporating consumer-friendly features that contribute to preference and consumption
Packaging that performs its protective function prevents food waste and eliminates the need for greater net environmental impact associated with spoiled or damaged food – as it biodegrades, spoiled or discarded food releases methane, a greenhouse gas with over 20 times the impact on climate change compared to carbon dioxide. By helping to reduce food waste, sustainable food packaging helps ensure efficient utilization of all the energy used in each step along the food supply chain, from production to consumption. Reducing food waste also provides another important benefit – reduced cost for producers, processors, retailers and consumers.
We all can play a role in reducing food waste. Consumers can arm themselves with education about proper storage, handling and preparation, can utilize food and beverage products more efficiently and can make choices to support brands and organizations committed to sustainability. Foodservice providers can take action such as effectively managing portions and inventory. Retailers can implement procedures to properly pack and store items to avoid damage and spoilage, can partner with manufacturers and packaging providers to maximize shelf life and can utilize technology to better manage supplies. Food processors and manufacturers can work with suppliers to develop and implement efficient equipment designs and refine protective packaging to better meet individual operational needs. As packaging providers, we can continue to research and develop materials and processes that extend shelf life, maintain product freshness and communicate helpful information for end users (such as clear date labeling and proper handling instructions).
This year should be the year all involved in the food supply chain commit to the resolution of reducing preventable food waste.