'Reduce waste, buy packaged' crusade looks to bust food waste myths

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A campaign to educate consumers about the role that packaging can play in reducing food waste has been launched to counter negative public perception on the issue.

Packaged foodINCPEN, the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment, has launched 'The Good, The Bad and The Spudly' initiative in response to growing awareness of wasteful food habits, both in the home and throughout the supply chain.

INCPEN director Jane Bickerstaffe argues that used wisely, packaging kept food fresher for longer and that over the past 20 years, material innovations had come of age.

"Packaging has got cleverer and cleverer at doing more with less," she asserted. "There's always room for improvement, there is some not very good packaging out there but we think it's in the minority. I believe that all parts of the (packaging) supply chain are trying (to be better)."

She also pointed to the fact that in terms of overall resource inputs, packaging accounted for a fraction of the overall food supply chain.

"More than 10 times more resources are invested in making the food than in the few grams of packaging that's used to protect it," she said.

"The packaging is a sensible investment in resources and if manufacturers can use it well, it will keep their costs down as well as their environmental impacts - it's a win-win situation."

Bickerstaffe said one key challenge was to communicate these benefits to the consumer in a way that was meaningful enough to influence their purchasing habits.

"It's very difficult, people aren't interested in packaging," she acknowledged. "What they want is their food in good condition so that's the message we need to promote - if you want fresh peas, then buy the packaged option, especially frozen."

She added: "People have been fed a diet of 'packaging is bad' - they will avoid packaging and buy unpackaged and wonder why it's gone off."

Questioned about the rising complexity of material use in packaging and the challenges this creates for reprocessing, Bickerstaffe admitted that far more collaboration was needed across the entire supply chain.

"To understand the environmental impact of packaging you have to have to engage with not only the raw material suppliers, the packaging manufacturers, the brands and the retailers - but re-processors, councils and the waste management sector too."

However she maintained that compared to more recyclable materials, complex packaging such as foil laminate packs was just as environmentally beneficial as they used far less material at the design stage.

I must say that I have never heard so much garbage – pardon the pun – for a long time and this is nothing but an attempt by the packaging industry to greenwash the industry and to keep themselves in business.

Fruit and vegetables, for example, do not keep longer if left in the packaging. The opposite rather is the case.

However, various green media outlets fell all over themselves with regards to this as to how positive news this was not realizing, it would appear, that it is nothing but greenwash.

The greatest problem with buying packaged is that often the packages contain much more than can be used up by those buying the produce and thus waste also occurs.

The truth is that buying loose, ideally from independent stores, such as greengrocers or on the market, and then storing the produce in the proper places at home.

Do not store produce in the plastic bags that they are purchased in, even if bought loose but either open, in the correct compartment in the refrigerator or, as in the case of potatoes, in a burlap bag in a cool and dark place in the pantry.

Packaged will not reduce food waste whatever the packaging industry may wish us all to believe simply because they have conducted a study. That's like putting the fox in charge of security at the hen house.

© 2013