Home » World Food Day » Steel packaging: a sustainable solution for a more circular future

Alexis Van Maercke

Secretary General, APEAL

Steel packaging, a model material for a circular economy, plays a vital role in battling food waste — one of the greatest challenges we face today.

In the EU, nearly 59 million tonnes of food waste are generated each year (Eurostat 2022), contributing to a staggering 16% of total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the total EU food system. This World Food Day 2023, APEAL is calling for stakeholders throughout the value chain to recognise steel packaging’s pivotal role in combatting food waste.

Why food gets wasted

Food waste is a complex problem that spans all stages of the supply chain. Stringent quality and appearance standards mean that ‘wonky’ food is discarded during production while poor packaging design leads to edible food being spoiled or damaged in transit. The problem persists at home, where a significant proportion of food spoils before consumption and ends up in landfills.

The European Commission reports that 46% of food waste occurs at the consumption stage of the supply chain — almost as much as that generated by the primary production (25%) and processing and manufacturing stages (24%) combined. 

Steps in the right direction

This year, the European Commission introduced binding food waste reduction targets for EU Member States to achieve by 2030 as part of the revised Waste Framework Directive. These include reducing waste by 10% in processing and 30% in retail and consumption. Realising these goals, however, will demand innovative solutions across the supply chain.

Steel packaging: a sustainable ally 

Steel packaging boasts unique qualities that make it an indispensable tool for combatting food waste. Offering 100% barrier protection against light, water and air, steel packaging preserves its contents more effectively than any other packaging material. Food is typically canned within four hours of harvest, ensuring freshness and reducing the likelihood of misshapen or damaged items being discarded.

During transportation, the durability of steel ensures that food is protected against damage — reducing spoilage and waste. And, once food products reach consumers, steel packaging minimises household waste by providing portion-sized items with an extended shelf life and energy-free storage.

As countries observe World Food Day, we must recognise the importance of cutting food waste to mitigate the climate emergency. Providing the longest shelf life of any packaging format — and helping reduce waste during preparation, packing and transport — steel packaging can lead us to a less wasteful world and a truly circular economy.

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