What types of packaging are best for preventing food waste?
Thatâ€™s the big question driving new research from the National Zero Waste Council and Value Chain Management International.
FOOD WASTE AND PACKAGING
In recent years, thereâ€™s been a growing awareness about the staggering amount of food wasted around the globe, along with an explosion in concern over the use of plastic packaging. But how might these two issues be connected? Is it possible that solutions to one issue are making the other worse?
The National Zero Waste Council has engaged Value Chain Management International, a global consulting firm specializing in the agriculture and food industries, for a national research project to understand the pros and cons of various types of packaging materials and techniques.
Theyâ€™ll look at aspects like food freshness, safety, identification, storage and shelf-life, along with the greenhouse gas emissions associated with different packaging options.
â€œThe findings of this research will form the basis of policy recommendations for governments and best practices for businesses in the agriculture, food processing and retail sectors to prevent food loss and waste,â€ said Malcolm Brodie, Chair of the National Zero Waste Council. â€œAs we work to tackle food waste on a national scale, considering how packaging is applied along the entire supply chain will be an important part of the solution.â€
AVOIDABLE FOOD WASTE â€“ A $49.5 BILLION PROBLEM
In Canada alone, itâ€™s estimated that more than one third of the food produced and distributed never gets eaten, due to loss and waste along the supply chain and at the home.
In 2017, the National Zero Waste Council conducted research on household food waste in Canada, and the results were astonishing. They found that 63% of the food Canadians throw away is considered avoidable â€“ meaning it could have been eaten at some point.
Earlier this year, Value Chain Management International and Second Harvest deepened our collective understanding of avoidable food waste with their ground-breaking report, The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste. It found that 11.2 million metric tonnes of avoidable food waste is generated in Canada each year, with processing and manufacturing being the largest sources, accounting for 43% of the total waste.
All of this wasted food adds up to a value of $49.5 billion, representing about more than half of the money Canadians spent on food at retail stores in 2016. Canadaâ€™s avoidable food waste alone could feed every person living in the country for almost 5 months.
PAPER OR PLASTIC?
Packaging is important to the food industry. It keeps food fresh and safe, facilitates handling, storage and transportation, and conveys important information to consumers. However, there may be more opportunities for industry players to adopt best practices that deliver on these food industry goals while also preventing food loss and waste.
The research will analyze six food types, and provide an estimate the percentage of sales in each category thatâ€™s unpackaged versus packaged, and where more effective packaging may be warranted:
- diary and eggs
- field crops
- meat and poultry
- sugars and syrups
This research builds upon other projects in the US and Europe, toward a made-in-Canada approach to better prevent food loss and waste while supporting sustainable and environmentally sound decision making by all in the supply chain.
FINDINGS TO BE ANNOUNCED AT THE ZERO WASTE CONFERENCE
Highlights of this new food waste and packaging report will be presented at the 2019 Zero Waste Conference, on October 30, 2019.
This national research project has been made possible through the support of Vancity and RECYC-QUÃ‰BEC.
The National Zero Waste Council, an initiative of Metro Vancouver, is a leadership organization bringing together governments, businesses and non-government organizations to advance waste prevention in Canada and the transition to a circular economy.
A focus on waste prevention and on cross-sector collaboration uniquely positions the Council as an agent of change in Canada – driving innovation in the design, production and use of goods in support of a circular economy. By taking action on the factors that drive waste generation the Council is supporting a high quality of life, environmental sustainability and economy prosperity while consuming fewer resources and less energy.
Founded by Metro Vancouver in collaboration with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in 2013, the Council has united, among others, six of Canada’s largest metropolitan regions â€“ Metro Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Calgary and Edmonton â€“ with key business and government leaders, academia and non-profit organizations in a call for national action and systems change to address waste generation.
Whether youâ€™re totally new to the concept or an industry veteran, the Zero Waste Conference in collaboration with the National Zero Waste Council strikes a balance between theory and action. The conference is your guide to the people, ideas and actions that are having the biggest impact.
2019 Zero Waste Conference:
Mobilizing for Success in the Circular Economy
October 30 â€“ 31, 2019
Vancouver Convention Centre (999 Canada Place)