AUSTRALIA – Packaging has a vital role to play in containing and protecting food as it moves through the supply chain to the consumer, according to a new study undertaken by RMIT University’s Centre for Design and commissioned by CHEP, an Australian provider of pallet and container pooling services.
The study titled ‘The role of packaging in minimising food waste in the supply chain of the future’, sought to understand food waste focussing on the waste that occurs prior to consumption – i.e. during agriculture production, post-harvest handling and storage of raw materials – and in the commercial and industrial sector consisting of food manufacturing, wholesale trade, food retail and distribution and food services.
Drawing on an international literature review and interviews with representatives from 15 organizations in the Australian food and packaging supply chain, the study notes that over 4.2 million tonnes of food waste is disposed to landfill in Australia each year. Of this, 1.5 million tonnes is from the commercial and industrial sector, costing around A$10.5 billion in waste disposal charges and lost product.
The largest single contributor in the commercial and industrial sector is food service activities (for example cafes, restaurants, fast food outlets), which generate 661,000 tonnes of food waste per year, followed by food manufacturing (312,000 tonnes) and food retail (179,000 tonnes).
According to the study commissioned by CHEP, some of the main reasons for food loss and waste are due to processing and packaging problems such as trimmings and other food preparation waste; production line start up; batch mistakes; inadequate remaining shelf life. Problems also occur during distribution in both wholesale and retail, for example damage in transit/storage due to packaging failures; product spoilage; fresh produce not meeting specifications or damaged during handling; inadequate remaining shelf life due to poor stock rotation or low sales.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) welcomed the release of the study results and said the findings would help the packaging industry produce packaging solutions that better protect food and also extend products shelf-life.
“Every year more than four million tonnes of food waste goes to landfill in Australia, with some of the biggest contributors being households. With food security being identified as a big issue over coming decades, opportunities to reduce waste are very welcome,” said AFGC CEO Gary Dawson.
“Harnessing the findings of this study to produce packaging that protects food as it moves through the supply chain, and that also extends shelf-life for the consumer, provide further opportunities to improve efficiencies for industry.”
“The findings reinforce industry’s commitment to design and use packaging to move goods from production to consumption without damage while using minimum resources and generating the least amount of waste, through sustainable design,” he added.