Food waste, whether it be food damaged or spoiled in transit, or food that is wasted from the hospitality sector and households, has a significant economic and environmental impact, says Paula Birch, sales director, Parkside Flexibles.
Australia is currently experiencing a spike in food waste figures, and research by the Australian government found that each year around 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in the country. This loss equals 300kg per person and accounts for more than five per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
Around 31 per cent of people in Australia are now struggling to feed themselves every day, a daunting fact! What's more, Australia still dumps around 21.4Mt of food waste into landfills every year. The greenhouse gases released by rotting food at these sites are considered 21 times more dangerous to the environment than carbon dioxide. Clearly, this is neither environmentally sound nor sustainable.
The government has set targets that include moving to 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging, to phase out unnecessary single-use plastics by 2025. Alongside this, it is also aiming to cut the country's food waste in half by 2030. Therefore, it's vital moving forward that food brands strike a fine line between meeting packaging sustainability goals and targeting food waste reduction.
Redesigning food packaging is an obvious starting point. A combination of new practical designs and innovative materials can help solve the problem. For example, innovations in paper and plastic flexible packaging can extend product shelf life considerably, as well as provide convenience features, such as re-closable and portion control solutions to minimise unnecessary losses.
Shelf life is key
First and foremost, extended shelf-life packaging designs – high barrier flexible packaging, vacuum skin and modified atmosphere tray designs– can certainly reduce losses in the supply chain.
Once in the home, then reclosable packaging can significantly increase product shelf life by protecting the product once opened, preventing food from spoiling too quickly and providing the consumer with confidence to use the food for longer. Alternatively, offering portion control designs can enable consumers to only use what they need at each mealtime.
Solutions from Parkside
Parkside Flexibles works closely with brands and retailers to understand their consumer needs and design unique packaging solutions that support a food waste reduction strategy.
From using state-of-the-art laser technology to produce easy peel and re-close lidding films to high barrier flexible packaging development, Parkside offers a range of packaging technologies to meet both sustainability and food waste reduction goals.
As an industry, it is important moving forward that we all contribute to the fight against waste by providing fit-for-purpose packaging that is sustainable in design and enables the reduction of food waste from farm to fork.
We must also ensure we educate the consumer about the impact of food waste on the environment. We all have a role to play if we are going to successfully solve the food waste challenge.