Fresh produce packaging could help reduce the estimated $20bn worth of food that is lost or wasted in Australia per year. We spoke to Michael Rogers, CEO of AFPA, about the results of a new study.

A new study from RMIT and Empauer, released by the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA), mapped the life cycle of 10 fresh produce items, both with and without packaging. It found that packaging on fresh produce offers a number of advantages, including product protection, extension of shelf life, and the ability to communicate product information which assists consumers.

According to Michael Rogers, CEO of AFPA, despite consumer concerns around packaging there are compelling arguments to use it for fresh produce.

“It’s shocking to think that an estimated 7.3 million tonnes of food valued at $20bn is lost or wasted every year in Australia, while rates of obesity are rising due to poor diet and low intake of fresh fruit and vegetables," Rogers told PKN.

Strawberry punnets, Pinata Farms.
Strawberry punnets, Pinata Farms.

“It is important that consumers better understand why producers use particular packaging formats, whether it be to ensure product integrity in the supply chain, extend shelf life and/or reduce food waste,” said Rogers, citing the example of berries in punnets being protected from damage.

According to Rogers, finding the right balance between avoiding food waste and minimising packaging waste can be tricky, especially with the current recycling issues in Australia.

“Our research is about product protection, extending shelf life, and minimising food waste. Another part of the conversation is working on the recycling of all packaging materials, and that’s a related issue on which we are engaging with industry and government.

“We’ll be releasing some further work on industry commitment to managing packaging and materials, and ensuring that packaging is focused on product protection,” he said.

Rogers also stressed the importance of reducing and recycling packaging wherever possible.

“Reduction and recycling go hand in hand. We have to be conscious of packaging that is being used, not just on the product but in the supply chain, but regardless of the material there are commitments around reducing and recycling. Industry is supportive of those commitments.

“It’s a complex challenge for industry, and there’ll be a number of solutions such as reviewing packaging on product and in the supply chain; looking at new materials; and working to improve recycling,” he said.

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