Home » World Food Day » How sustainable packaging preserves food resources and minimises waste

Monica Battistella

Group Sustainability Manager, Taghleef Industries

Allegra Muscatello

Product Manager, Taghleef Industries

It’s more important than ever to preserve food resources and reduce food waste. Sustainable packaging solutions help do just that — and in a less carbon-intensive way.

With the global population increasing, climate change seemingly accelerating and geopolitical risks multiplying, preserving food resources and minimising waste are becoming more important. Sustainable packaging solutions that protect and can possibly extend shelf life with the lowest carbon footprint are a necessary part of the solution.

Role of packaging along the supply chain

“Food waste is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the U.S.,” says Monica Battistella, Group Sustainability Manager at Taghleef Industries, which designs packaging solutions. “Packaging has a fundamental role to play in waste minimisation because it provides protection to food along the different parts of the value chain. Perhaps not many consumers think of packaging as a way of diminishing greenhouse gases. But that’s what sustainable packaging can do.”

Most companies are committed to dealing with the issue of waste. Food industry players are turning to flexible (rather than rigid or heavier materials) packaging solutions, which provide the best content-to-packaging ratio, are made from less material and optimise space during transport.

Finding the right flexible packaging for customers’ needs

Taghleef Industries helps its customers reduce waste by finding the right sustainable packaging with its widening portfolio of products derived from recycled and renewable resources. They also partner with them to redesign and innovate. “Companies want a sustainable option that provides the same performance and protection as traditional packaging,” says Battistella. “We’re not saying one sustainable material is better than another. There’s a place for different materials — but they do have to be right for the product they are protecting.

Unfortunately, there are cases where food waste is inevitable. For example, perishable products that have expired; or leftover coffee granules that cannot be efficiently separated from coffee capsules. “In these cases, if traditional packaging is used, food waste will either end up in landfills, missing the opportunity of being organically recycled, or end up within plastic or paper recycling streams, not only losing its potential value but also contaminating the plastic or paper recycling stream itself,” stresses Allegra Muscatello, Product Manager at Taghleef Industries.

Perhaps not many consumers think of packaging as a way of diminishing greenhouse gases. But that’s what sustainable packaging can do.

Monica Battistella

Compostable material and alternative polymers

Instead, Muscatello advocates using packaging made from compostable material for some products like the above mentioned ones because, at the end of its life, everything — both the packaging and the food waste inside of it — can be organically recycled. “Several studies have demonstrated that certified compostable packaging, together with food waste in industrial composting facilities, are metabolised by microorganisms into compost, without affecting its quality,” she explains.

“Additionally, the industry is increasingly exploring the use of food waste as second-generation feedstock to produce such compostable materials. This offers a circular economy solution for food waste valorisation and a sustainable product development at the same time. It’s also turning to innovative biodegradable polymers, which can possibly address the problem of plastic waste regrettably ending in nature and marine environment.”

Consumer awareness of packaging and food waste

From the consumer side, more awareness about food and packaging waste is needed. “The majority of food waste happens at the beginning but also at the end of the value chain and the latter is linked to consumer behaviour,” explains Battistella. “For example, people buy more food than they need; plus, there’s little understanding of ‘best before’ dates and will end up throwing perfectly good food.”

More emphasis needs to be placed on how consumers dispose of their food packaging. This means clearer recycling instructions on packaging and standardised regulations. “Because then — wherever you live — you know exactly what can be recycled and what can’t be,” she says. “Thankfully, I see that most consumers want to do the right thing.”

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