In 2022, the National Zero Waste Council conducted research on household food waste in Canada, and the results were astonishing.
- 63% of the food Canadians throw away could have been eaten. For the average Canadian household that amounts to 140 kilograms of wasted food per year – at a cost of more than $1,300 per year!
- For Canada as a whole, that amounts to almost 2.3 million tonnes of edible food wasted each year, costing Canadians in excess of $20 billion.
- All types of food are wasted, but in Canada the most prominently wasted foods by weight are Vegetables (30%), Fruit (15%), and Leftovers (13%).
According to the National Zero Waste Council, the recommended interventions to drive systemic change to reduce food loss and waste (FLW) are grouped into five categories, namely;
- optimizing the sale of loose/bulk vs. prepackaged
- Addressing problematic and unnecessary packaging
- Improving recycling infrastructure
- Improving composting/anerobic digestion infrastructure
- Accelerating development of new packaging materials and solutions
Packaging serves an important role in physically protecting food from damage and spoilage, and providing necessary conditions for maximizing shelf life. Food packaging can contribute to household food waste reduction by:
- being designed to extend the shelf-life of food products,
- being available in numerous sizes for different sized households,
- communicating on-pack the best way to use and store a food item,
- assisting households to use date labels to better manage their food, and
- slowing the degradation of perishable foods.
Advanced packaging technologies like Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP), vacuum packaging and active packaging don’t just use less packaging material than conventional formats, but they can also extend food freshness and shelf life, and reduce food spoilage, as illustrated below:
While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that packaging can help make significant strides in reducing food waste, there are still some significant challenges to overcome.
Perhaps the biggest of these challenges is consumers’ negative perceptions of packaging and the misconceptions of its post-use environmental impacts. This consumer pressure has prompted many to reduce food packaging, which in some cases, has resulted in net negative environmental impacts due to increased food waste. These misperceptions of the environmental impact of packaging are obscuring the fact that packaging can be a key solution to minimizing food waste.
In order to further understand the relationship between packaging choice and food waste, the following resources are recommended: