Food wastage is less than ever acceptable, as we all become more aware of the impact that growing products destinated to the waste container has on the environment, of the unequal distribution of food resources across the world, as well as of the costs engaged for waste disposal. Food wastage reduction thus becomes a priority for the authorities of developed countries, who also see here a chance to give some purchasing power back to their constituents. The European Union’s stated objective is to halve the wastes of edible materials by 2025, and thus preserve nearly 45 million tons of food every year.
The global awareness on food wastage will have an impact on the packaging function over the long term, but not solely. Industrial processes as well might soon be scrutinized.
Setting the balance right between packaging wastes and food loss
Annette Freidinger underlined in her opinion column, published in the expert whitepaper Packaging Trends, that fighting against food loss can sometimes be unconsistent with the objective of reducing the volume of packaging wastes, which remains a major issue. The challenge for the years to come is thus to develop new solutions without compromising what has been accomplished up to now. All this resulting without doubt in quite different options taken from one product category to another.
Less preservatives, though with an extended shelf life
Still keen on distant best-before dates, consumers are however increasingly suspicious of any non-identified added substance, that could harm their health or affect the organoleptic properties of the product. Fresh over a longer period could then become the motto of tomorrow’s packaging, that will for sure call for new decontamination and filling technologies (for more informations on this subject, see the opinion column of Roland Nicolas on aseptic milk packaging), but also involve an internal protection against bacterial growth in addition to the existing barrier against external contamination.
Provide the consumer with additional guarantees
How can I be certain and confident that the product I am about to buy/eat is still good for me ? Beyond the efforts needed to clarify the basic concepts of ‘use-by’ and ‘best-before’ dates, manufacturers might also be required to give evidence on the freshness of the products displayed in shelves. As such, the research work which aims at developing tags that could collect objective bacteriological data without the intervention of the manufacturer and be read on a smartphone, seems promising. (For more details, see the article How fresh the fish is, on our Scoop it topic).
Processes : the ‘no-loss’ principle
Most of the initiatives aiming at reducing food loss are directed toward the final consumer. Yet, in the study carried out on the subject, the European Community considers that 39% of food loss occurs within the manufacturers’ premises. Despite statistical weaknesses that are broadly documented in the study, the figure that could sounds huge appears to be consistent with a loss in raw materials of «only» 5%. Losses that also have an economical impact and for which equipment suppliers are working on solutions all along the manufacturing chain such as, for example, control by means of artificial vision (see the opinion column of Christophe Venaille on the subject : Towards full control using vision inspection) or technical innovation for conveyor in order to avoid material loss ( read the article about Liftvrac on the subject).
A global commitment toward reducing food loss will with no doubt restore the value of packaging, at least for its protective function. A positive outlook for all those working in the agribusiness, but that imposes to overcome new challenges in order to square what is, up to now, still a circle.
* Preparatory study on food waste across EU 27 – Octobre 2010 – Bio Intelligence Service
> Bio foodwaste report