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PKN talks about packaging's role in solving the problem of food waste, with Karli Verghese and Nerida Kelton.

 

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In this episode, PKN Managing Editor & Publisher Lindy Hughson is joined by Karli Verghese and Nerida Kelton. Karli is the Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow in Industrial Design at RMIT and the Reduce Program Leader at the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). Nerida is the Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), and project lead for the Save Food Packaging project in the Fight Food Waste CRC.

Karli Verghese, Reduce Program Leader at the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
Karli Verghese, Reduce Program Leader at the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

We start the episode by noting that food waste is a major environmental problem that was recently highlighted by the UN's Food & Agriculture Organisation, which held the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste on the 29th of September. Here in Australia, over 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted annually across the supply and consumption chain with 34 per cent of that waste being in the home.

Karli provides an overview of the Fight Food Waste CRC and her role there along with a summary of the insights being gained from the various projects currently underway within the CRC. After this, Nerida describes how the AIP is involved with CRC, establishing guidelines to help packaging technologists minimise food waste across the chain, including in the home. This leads to a discussion about awareness of packaging's ability to reduce food waste and how there can be no solution to food waste without collaboration between all parties involved in the chain.

The discussion then moves on to the importance of design and the use of active and intelligent packaging to prevent damage and spoilage, extend shelf life and preserve and enhance product appeal while still providing convenience and also communicating to consumers how to handle, store, prepare and reuse food products. We also discuss the changes in packaging to accommodate the shift in home sizes, where many people now are cooking for only one or two people, not a whole family. Examples of innovative designs include Woolworths’ new recyclable meat packaging and Hazeldene Chicken's recyclable, freezer-ready packaging that extends shelf life and which won the WorldStar Packaging that Saves Food Award this year.

Nerida Kelton, project lead for the Save Food Packaging project in the Fight Food Waste CRC.
Nerida Kelton, project lead for the Save Food Packaging project in the Fight Food Waste CRC.

The concern is raised that accommodating smaller portion sizes can lead to more packaging but this can be balanced through innovative design that better accommodates recycling and a reduction in food wastage. This highlights the importance of taking a holistic view of the entire chain to determine the trade-offs between packaging and reduction of waste.

We wrap up the episode with a view of the current status projects within the CRC and AIP along with the plans they have for the short to medium term, including activities associated with next year's International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.

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