Can food supply chains do more to reduce the festive throw away and the mountains of wasted Christmas fare? Julian Money, founder of packaging designer and manufacturer RAP, considers his industry’s responsibilities.
The UK leads the world in packaging innovation, demonstrating continuous excellence in both design and production.
However, while this success story is one to be proud of, the impact of food packaging on the environment and society as a whole remains firmly under the spotlight, especially over the festive season.
Latest figures from the Waste & Resource Action Programme (WRAP) highlight that a staggering 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away every year – the majority of which could have been eaten.
With Christmas fast approaching the issue is even more pertinent as we eagerly splash out on celebratory treats.
Feasting on Christmas day alone is estimated to create an extra 50m bags of rubbish, or £600m of wasted food, as we will throw a fifth of what we have purchased in the bin.
The environmental impact of the seasonal celebrations is felt across the nation and retailers are facing mounting pressure to make better use of packaging to keep food fresher for longer.
They are also trying to better educate customers about the vital role packaging plays in this process.
WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment, which was first agreed in 2005 is designed to help with this challenge.
The Courtauld Commitment has already made some significant steps forward in waste reduction and is now in its third phase, known as CC3.
Among other ambitious targets, this third phase includes a challenge to achieve a further a further 1.1 million tonnes of waste reduction by 2015.
Importantly, the resulting benefits of the Commitment aren’t constrained to those organisations directly involved. The current situation presents an ideal opportunity for the entire industry to assess its own circumstances and priorities in relation to enhanced packaging optimisation.
The role of packaging manufacturers
When it comes to implementing change, the modern packaging manufacturer is, of course, no exception.
That’s why RAP has recently launched its own White Paper, Packaging the Future. An informative guide to reducing food waste, it explores the critical role the packaging manufacturer has to play in the ongoing development of sustainable packaging.
RAP knows only too well how essential it is for manufacturers to continue to launch new and innovative products to cater for current demand and ease consumers’ environmental concerns, especially over the festive season.
Significantly, this will not only mean companies are able to deliver sustainability, but will also drive sales to bolster and boost the bottom line.
However, improving packaging optimisation through the introduction of new technology requires a collaborative approach.
It must be delivered throughout the supply chain, as reducing food waste requires different approaches for retailers and consumers.
The benefit of this collaborative approach is that it can often result in more possibilities for the manufacturer, as it enables a variety of packaging options to be cost effectively combined, or used separately.
There’s no doubt that the critical role of packaging in helping retailers meet their sustainability targets presents a number of challenges. However, the changing landscape is continuing to open up a raft of new opportunities and technical innovations across the industry.
Encouragingly, continued innovation by packaging experts is helping to keep food fresher for longer, in turn, saving money and reducing waste.