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The Current State of Food Waste & How Packaging is Helping

The Current State of Food Waste & How Packaging is Helping

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that we waste approximately 30-40% of our food supply. Much of the food that goes to waste could have fed the growing population of hungry people and people in poverty. When we look at the bigger picture, we’re wasting more than just food. Food that goes to waste also wastes valuable resources for production, transportation, preparation, storage, and disposal.

While the packaging industry often faces criticism for damaging the environment, one way packaging companies and packaging products are boosting sustainability is through helping to reduce food waste. Here’s what we know about the current state of food waste and how the packaging industry is helping.

Food Waste Statistics

Around the world there are many places where every single bread crumb is cherished. Even in the US, from The Great Depression to today’s poverty, many people go without quality meals. Before we look at the role of packaging, let’s break down the food waste data:

Why We Need to Pay Attention

From the statistics above it’s clear that the food waste problems we have are not slowing down. The clearest benefit is that by having more efficient processes and producing only the food that is going to be consumed saves companies from throwing away food before it makes it to the customer. These companies can free up dollars to be used for creating new jobs and services.

Other ways that companies can help are training staff to reduce waste, having protocols for food preparation, store food properly, repurpose leftover kitchen food, to name a few.

Businesses are not the only culprits. At home, we also need to be cautious of where we waste, and packaging companies have created products to help us do this. We also need participation from governments, farmers, and other organizations to share best practices, research alternative methods, and create initiatives.   

Packaging & Food Waste

While customers are looking for sustainable packaging (or sometimes no packaging at all) when it comes to purchasing food, this is actually counterintuitive. Unless the food is going to be consumed before it’s perishable time, having protective packaging helps to reduce waste by preserving food longer.

Many food items also produce significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than packaging products. For example, beef emits 370 times more greenhouse gases than packaging, and cucumbers produce 178 times more greenhouse gases than packaging.

One caution is that the materials do matter. Utilizing materials that are easy to reuse (such as glass containers) or recycle (such as cardboard and cartons) is key. Other best practices include clearly labeling the expiration date, and educating your customers on the dangers of food waste and food waste prevention.

Packaging Products for Waste Prevention

These are our favorite products that are emerging as the best options for helping to reduce food waste:

  • Resealable Bags: plastic bags with resealable zips to keep food fresh longer 
  • Plastic cartons: these are useful for food products that are often damaged in transit (such as grapes)
  • Skin Plastic: a packaging solution that has improved the shelf life of meat produce
  • Single serve packaging: used for prepackaged single serve meals and snacks 
  • Factory-sealed plastic containers: preserve all elements of food products, including flavor, texture, and nutrients (11)

At Hughes, our packaging consultants are experts at evaluating our food industry customers and identifying the needs of the individual company, as well as making recommendations for sustainability and reducing waste. Contact us today to start packaging your food with optimal resources.