The role of packaging in minimising food waste in the supply chain of the future

Food industry and trade Sustainability Industries Supply chain Australia

This report focuses on packaging opportunities that may help to reduce or recover food waste, proposes opportunities for industry to address food waste through innovative and sustainable primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

Food security is an emerging challenge for policy makers and companies in the food supply chain. The global population is expected to grow to 9 billion and demand for food by 77% by 2050. Over the same period food production will be under threat from climate change, competing land uses, erosion and diminishing supplies of clean water. One of the solutions to this dilemma is increased efficiency and waste reduction in the food supply chain.

This report focuses on packaging opportunities that may help to reduce or recover food waste. Packaging has a vital role to play in containing and protecting food as it moves through the supply chain to the consumer. It already reduces food waste in transport and storage, and innovations in packaging materials, design and labelling provide new opportunities to improve efficiencies. Product protection needs to be the primary goal for packaging sustainability, and sometimes this requires trade-offs between packaging and food waste.
The report draws on an international literature review and interviews with representatives from 15 organisations in the Australian food and packaging supply chain. It considers food waste along the entire food supply chain, but with a particular emphasis on food 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 (C&I) sector consisting of food manufacturing, wholesale trade, food retail and distribution and food services. Food rescue through charities is also a focus of the report.

Over 4.2 million tonnes of food waste is disposed to landfill in Australia each year. Around 1.5 million tonnes of this is from the commercial and industrial sector (the focus of this report), costing around $10.5 billion in waste disposal charges and lost product. The largest single contributor in the commercial and industrial sector is food service activities (e.g., 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). Most waste in food manufacturing is unavoidable, and almost 90% is already recovered as animal feed, compost or energy.

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