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Using more packaging can reduce food waste

Food waste poses a global challenge, with up to 50% of the food we produce being thrown away. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, approximately one million tonnes of food is thrown away in Sweden each year, with private households being responsible for the greatest amount. Smarter packaging and a wider range of packaging materials may reduce the level of food waste and therefore the environmental impact.

“Much of your behaviour is determined by packaging,” says Ann Lorentzon, researcher and project manager in the field of packaging at RISE Bioeconomy. “The design of packaging decides the size of portions and how much you buy.”

In the project Packaging systems for reduced food waste, RISE has developed new and innovative packaging solutions to reduce food waste along the entire chain, from production to kitchen table. Three different prototypes have been produced in collaboration with food producers to provide concrete examples of how food packaging can both contribute to greater utilisation and increase resource efficiency in the food and packaging industries.

“The development of these prototypes has provided the companies with concrete examples that demonstrate the concept. A general knowledge is not enough to create innovation; our ambition was to develop specific packaging solutions and to demonstrate the real importance of packaging to preventing food waste at source. We can then begin to speak of packaging as an environmental hero,” says Kristina Wickholm, the RISE project manager in charge of the project.

Food waste can be reduced by smarter packaging

As packaging protects food, food waste can be reduced by smarter packaging, for example in smaller portion packs. When food is packed in this way, we are more likely to eat it all and throw less away. This reduces environmental impact, even where more packaging is used.

“The spontaneous reaction among consumers is that more packaging is less environmentally friendly,” says Ann Lorentzon. “However, packaging is actually only responsible for around 10% of the environmental impact of food production; so, if it leads to reduced food waste, more packaging may actually be better from a purely environmental standpoint. And, of course, it’s also good for the wallet.”