food packaging waste

How to Reduce Food Waste and Food Packaging Waste

We are fortunate to live in a country that produces an abundance of food, but we waste a significant amount of it and fail to recycle so much of the packaging it comes in. In fact, almost half (45%) of the materials landfilled in the United States are food and packaging/containers, according to the EPA. “Between 4 and 10 percent of food purchased by food service operations in the U.S. is thrown out before reaching the plate.” In 2010, enough food to fill the Rose Bowl Stadium reached landfills in the U.S. each day, according to the book American Wasteland.

It costs money to waste food and food packaging, it’s unnecessary, and it produces negative environmental impacts. In this article, we’ll go over several strategies and purchasing decisions that those in the food industry can utilize to alleviate this problem while also making it easier for the consumer to take part as well.

The Benefits of Reducing Packaging Food Waste

When food service establishments reduce wasted packaging they enjoy two primary benefits, they save money and the environment wins.

  • A cost savings: The over-purchasing of packaging materials is eliminated. The disposal of packaging materials is avoided or reduced. The establishment enjoys tax benefits. The customer saves money. 
  • The environment wins: Packaging production and waste transport use less transportation energy and produce less emissions. As a result, less natural resources are used. There are less landfill emissions and there is less land use related to disposal. Environmentally conscious customers are satisfied. Community waste reduction efforts are supported. Health and odor concerns with food disposal are eliminated.

Strategies to Reduce Packaging Food Waste

The main strategies to reduce packaging food waste are to reduce sourcing (which prevents waste before it is created), reuse items, and recycle or compost the waste.

Consider your purchasing policy. Packaging reduction should be a part of it. Choose your packaging wisely. Ideally, the best way to consider your policy is to do a life cycle assessment from production to usage to disposal. Call Trinity Packaging Supply. We can help! Study your food packing methods, the materials used, the transportation methods, and the storage conditions to learn how they can be optimized to maximize shelf life and minimize food waste. Optimize the shipping container and the pallet configuration to minimize product damage.

Wherever possible, purchase food in bulk. Purchasing food in larger quantities reduces packaging waste. Some foods cannot be bought in large quantities, but some can, like condiments and non-perishables (sugar, grains, oils, spices, etc.). 

Present your food in larger containers, such as condiment dispensers, thermos pitchers of creamer, and jars of sugar instead of single use individual packets.

Purchase products in containers that can be taken back by the supplier. 

Purchase and use reusable packaging and service ware. Use reusable totes, pallets, or bins instead of standard corrugated boxes. Use reusable service ware or keep disposable cutlery or condiments behind the counter so the customer does not take too much. Use reusable plates instead of paper or plastic plates.

Alternatively, purchase products in containers that can be recycled or composted and service ware or condiments that can be recycled or composted. If doing this, make sure your area supports this option. In several locations in the U.S., recycling and composting is cheaper than adding to landfill. The most common recyclable materials are cardboard, glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum. The most common compostable materials are food, napkins, paper towels, cardboard, paper packaging and wood packaging.

Even better, consider biobased materials that use renewable resources that reduce the carbon footprint and that compost or recycle, such as bottles partially or entirely made from plants (corn, potatoes, rice, soy, sugarcane, wheat, and vegetable oil).

Select the optimal box design and shape for how you operate. This can reduce damage to the product before it reaches the consumer, reducing food waste.

Change to packaging that keeps food fresher longer and reduces waste, such as changing from a plastic tray to a skin pack.

Assess barrier packaging as an option to protect products like food from oxygen, moisture, and light. This helps keep a longer shelf life and preserves a high-quality product. It can be expensive but depending on the sensitivity of the food, might be worth it to keep customers happy.

Consider “packaging techniques such as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and packaging innovations such as active and intelligent packaging [which] are being used to combat food waste,” says Carol Zweep, manager of packaging, food & label compliance, NSF International.

Find areas of your business where you can occasionally eliminate packaging entirely. Ask customers if they need carry out bags and give customers an incentive to bring their own containers, such as beverage containers.

Summary

The right packaging can protect food, keep it fresh, deliver it safely, extend product shelf life, prevent food and packaging waste, save money and reputation, and improve manufacturing process efficiency and distribution system efficiency. Customers today demand sustainable packaging, convenience, performance, aesthetic appearance, and value. Reusing, reducing, and recycling your packaging and using renewable and responsibly sourced materials is well worth the effort. Give Trinity Packaging Supply a call at 856-520-8332 or email us at info@trinitypkgs.com to learn more!

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