Waste not, want not

Waste not, want not

It isn’t unusual to throw away leftovers and discard even slightly damaged food without a second thought. Yet, when we consider that 135 million people face acute food shortages, it is clear that food waste is an issue we can no longer ignore.

The contribution of packaging to waste reduction is highlighted in an article by global paper and packaging supplier Mondi, titled “Why does one third of the world’s food never make it to the table and how can packaging help?”

Confronting food waste, reports Mondi, is critical to the health of people, the planet and business. “It’s staggering that two billion people could be fed with the 1,3 billion tonnes of food that is lost or wasted every year – the combined population of Europe and Africa.”

In developed countries almost half of the loss occurs at the consumer’s end of the supply chain, while developing economies see a significant proportion of post-harvest food wasted. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has pointed out that, regardless of location, these high losses are mainly due to lack of proper storage, improper handling and inadequate packaging.

“When we waste food,” says Mondi, “we also waste the resources that were used to produce it, whether that’s water, energy, land or capital. According to the FAO, the production of food lost or wasted accounts for 7% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, meaning that it would sit ahead of India as the third largest polluter if it were a country.

“We’re also wasting 30% of the world’s agricultural land and 6% of total surface and groundwater withdrawals, at a time when one in three people across the world don’t have access to safe drinking water. It’s time to place more value on the food we consume.”

Mondi is focusing on packaging solutions that are sustainable by design and reduce the risk of bruising and other damage to food as it is transported to consumers.

“This is a critical loss point for fresh fruits and vegetables, in particular, largely owing to inadequate bulk packaging. As we see a rise in e-groceries, this is only going to become a greater issue.”

For example, research by Mondi and the Aegean University into the shelf life of tomatoes has proven that corrugated packaging is most effective for maintaining quality and limiting the loss of tomatoes, compared to both plastic and wooden trays.

“The study looked at the impact of different packaging materials on both the weight and hardness of tomatoes, as well as more visible mechanical damage. All of these factors negatively impact appearance and the likelihood of a consumer purchasing and/or eating the product.”

To address this problem Mondi has collaborated with BIOhof Kirchweidach, an organic farm in Bavaria, to design a sustainable packaging solution for the 500 g packs of tomatoes (on the vine) distributed to Penny supermarkets, owned by major German retailer Rewe Group.

Dubbed the Coral Tray, it fulfils BIOhof’s objective of replacing its previous packaging, which used 2,5 g of plastic film per pack, with a recyclable and plastic-free solution.

The name came from the packaging’s resemblance to undersea coral and its contribution to reducing plastic waste, potentially helping to protect marine life. It is made of renewable material and recycled corrugated board, which has an average recycling rate of over 80% in Europe.

“At Mondi we are committed to being sustainable by design and we’re delighted to work with BIOhof to help expand their portfolio of sustainable packaged products,” says Jan Blankiewicz, product innovation manager at Mondi Corrugated Solutions. “The Coral Tray offers great shelf appeal.”

Patricia Brunn, director of Penny’s fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants category, adds: “Penny is pursuing a long-term sustainability strategy in which packaging plays a central role. We do not look at the topic in isolation, but always see it in the context of our fight against food waste.”

“Due to the stability of the packaging, the product is extremely well protected against damage,” says Florian Steiner, managing director of BIOhof Kirchweidach. “It also eliminates the risk that the tomatoes will be bruised in the shipping basket or on the way home with consumers. The goods breathe through the air holes, which reduces the risk of mould. Likewise, condensation cannot form, which often happens with plastic packaging.”

Mondi explains that more innovation is needed if the group is to simultaneously reduce food loss and waste, conserve resources and reduce the impact of packaging on the planet.

“We can’t do it alone, and as Covid-19 disrupts supply chains and economies around the world, warnings of a looming food crisis in its wake become louder. It is, therefore, more important than ever that we work together – as manufacturers, brands and consumers – to find solutions to stop food waste and address food insecurity for the long-term benefit of everyone.”

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