How packaging decisions can reduce global food waste

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Food waste is a problem that affects every nation. Each year, about one-third of food produced specifically for human consumption is lost or thrown out, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food.

There are countless measures people and industries can take to reduce the amount of wasted food. For example, families can make a greater effort to eat their leftovers, and stores can invest in programs to distribute unspoiled food throughout the community that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Wasting food

One area that can make a major difference in food waste is the protective packaging chosen to contain food as it’s shipped from the farm to stores, restaurants and other locations along the supply chain.

Fruits and vegetables need to make it from the farm to the store

Fruits and vegetables need to make it from the farm to the store undamaged.

The most commonly discarded foods are fruits and vegetables. About half of all fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers produced are thrown away every year. One key reason these items don’t make their way to consumers’ tables is due to their appearance, FAO pointed out. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are often passed over in favor of more picture-perfect options.

Additionally, bruised or prematurely spoiled fruits and vegetables get tossed before they have the chance to get to a grocer’s shelves or a chef’s pan.

Packaging strategies for global change

Protecting food while it’s in transport will give items a better chance to make it all the way from farm to table. Jay Singh, the packaging program director at California Polytechnic State University, believes that the packaging industry can make a difference in reducing food waste worldwide, according to Packaging World. He said inadequate airflow can cause food to spoil more rapidly. Additionally, fruits are more likely to bruise when packaging choices aren’t carefully made.

Foam mesh sleeves, such as Pregis’ SleevIts, can protect delicate fruits like Asian pears or peaches from bruising. And tray linings with pockets shaped and sized perfectly to hold everything from heirloom tomatoes to avocados to plums can keep fruits still during transit, preventing rolling and bumping. Polypropylene and polyethylene foam sheets can reduce abrasion and bruising during travel as well.

Benefiting the bottom line

There’s truly no good part of wasted food. When 50 percent of all fruits and vegetables will be thrown away without the chance of being consumed, farmers are losing time, money and energy. Further, stores, restaurants and other businesses who buy food just to throw it away lose money with each purchase. Additionally, companies that spend labor hours packaging foods with inefficient materials are not only putting their funds in the wrong packaging materials, but also boxing up food for no gain. All along the production chain, companies and individuals are seeing profits diminish as food gets rejected because of poor appearance or early spoilage.

As concerns about global food waste continue to grow, it’s important that everyone does their part to reduce its effects. When companies invest in the best food packaging supplies, they can give each item a better chance of making it to┬áconsumers’ tables.