Most of us hold a vague (or fervent) view that the less packaging the better. When it comes to food, though, it’s not as simple as that.
On the one hand, packaged food prevents choice in the amount we buy, which can prompt overbuying (and waste). Then again, packaging can keep food fresher longer and protect it from damaging. And the UK packaging group INCPEN stresses the latter argument with a neat campaign: The Good, the Bad and the Spudly.
The campaign comes in conjunction with INCPEN’s study Checking Out Food Waste, which examines in transit food waste. There are findings by financial value and weight, with chicken, bananas and bread leading the way for the latter. Depending on your view, the study could provide support for the theory that more packaging means less waste.
More certain, though, is the energy embedded in packaging vs. food. According to the study (page 5), the primary and transport packaging represent 10% of the energy for one person’s weekly food consumption. That’s less than the 14% of energy used in cooking and 17% in refrigeration. And it’s far below the 51% for producing our food.
It’s unclear whether or not that figure includes the energy used to grow wasted food. Yet, even using the most conservative estimate–accounting for our home wastage of 25%–food’s energy usage exceeds that of packaging. And that’s one of INCPEN’s major points.
Canadian-based, though North American in scope, The Packaging Association (PAC) announced plans on Monday to seek food waste solutions through packaging. Citing the global scope of waste (1/3 of global food wasted), PAC’s board of directors will launch the PAC Food Waste Initiative.
Here’s PAC Chairman Bruce Smith, of Molson Coors:
There are opportunities to reduce food waste through packaging improvements throughout the supply chain. PAC wants to investigate the causes, identify opportunities for innovation, extend product shelf life, and inform and educate to the broader community.
The initiative will launch despite that slight sustainability tension between food packaging and food waste. Minimizing packaging and damaged food are usually at odds, but I’m hopeful some potential double solutions will arise.
Regardless, the initiative will likely support research on waste, publish findings and distribute suggested solutions. PAC hopes interested parties from all parts of the food chain will participate in the program, which launches at PAC’s November 14th meeting.
I was pleasantly surprised to bump into this Panera Bread ad touting their donation program. As you can see, through a Feeding America partnership, Panera will now donate the remaining bread at the end of every day to those in need.
Now, this won’t be easy to pull off, given the uniqueness of every market and the detail that many Paneras are run by franchisees. But that’s where the Feeding America network of food banks will hopefully come in handy. And even if it doesn’t work perfectly, the increased donations and attention to excess is still quite helpful.
One final thought: It’s great to see someone take credit for their food donations. Too often, retailers and restaurants are leery of publicizing their actions, meaning the donor and the practice of food recovery miss out on some well-earned and much-needed publicity.
On Friday, Copenhagen will be…United Against Food Waste. The day will be a first: industry, government and consumers joining in a public event to tackle food waste.
Even more encouraging, stakeholders from various stages of the food chain will speak at the event, which falls under the EU FUSIONS umbrella. In addition to the speeches, the day will feature design contest winners and, of course, music by DJ Master Fatman.
Event organizers (led by the Danish non-profit Stop Wasting Food) will serve free food made from items that would otherwise have been thrown out. Organizers will divert any remaining food at the end of the event to Copenhagen’s hungry. And the organic waste will be collected and converted into biogas
United Against Food Waste follows successful Feeding the 5000 and New York City events as indication that the world is waking up on the food waste issue. And not a moment too soon!
King County (Washington) just launched an amazing campaign called Food: Too Good To Waste. They ran a pilot program last year, but have scaled up the initiative to include, among other things…videos!
In the videos, Chef Jackie, of campaign partner PCC Natural Markets, is the star. After watching her help families reduce their food waste in numerous ways, Chef Jackie is my new web crush. I’m hoping that she can make like Santa and visit every household in America.
It has neat messages on buying smaller quantities, keeping a refrigerator “Eat Now” box and planning a leftovers night. My one quibble is that, in light of the new date label study, I wasn’t fond of the insinuation that the family would have to throw out the chopped garlic when it reached its expiration date (but I liked the larger point advising against buying too much).
Some of the topics may sound a bit obvious–Shop Smart. Keep Fruits and Vegetables Fresh and Eat What You Buy–but these pages and their corresponding videos all contain useful tips and tricks for avoiding waste in your home. And, given that we discard about one-fourth of what we buy, the advice likely won’t be too basic for a most folks.
Finally, I’m grateful that the campaign creators resisted the urge to call it 2 Good 2 Waste. That’d be 2 much.
These days, web-based peer-to-peer services are all the rage. If it has worked for accommodation, cab rides, and deliveries, why not with selling prepared foods?(What’s that you say? Health code rules? OK, fine–that may be an issue.)
The web site/concept Cookisto is filling that edible void by allowing home chefs to post and sell their wares to the foodie public. The site started in Greece, where it has done well. The UK site is now collecting “Cookistas” (and their creations) and will launch soon. When it does, Britons could buy everything from a sausage roll to a slice of pie from participating neighbors.
The concept is interesting because it could provide a novel way to avoid having too many leftovers. You prepare and/or eat a meal, determine how much excess you”ll have, then put that up for sale. It could reduce waste, at least in theory.
Yet I would imagine many participants are cooking food just to sell, which would eliminate that ‘selling the excess’ factor. And I’m a bit concerned that the site’s premise is built on the idea that nobody wants to eat their own leftovers. Because, as we all know, leftovers rock.
Still–it could be a neat tool, and I’d love to see it hit the U.S. If nothing else, I’m sure Cookisto would be a boon for cook-ies.
The NRDC and Harvard Law School released an excellent, in-depth report on date labels today. The Dating Game is required reading for anyone trying to make sense of the expiration dates.
The report details the current situation with date labels, and it’s a grim one. There’s no consistency in terminology; instead it’s a jumble of “best by,” “best before,” “use by,” “use or freeze by” and “sell by.”
Meanwhile, there’s a lack of federal oversight–the only product required by federal law to have a date label is infant formula. In that void, there’s no consistency between states on what is required to have a date label and whether food can be sold past its “expiration date.”
Best of all, it suggests a few well-needed changes. Essentially: make “sell-by” dates invisible to consumers (because they’re meant for storekeepers), create uniform, reliable terms and add more safe-handling instructions on packaging.
This report could really shake things up in the food industry and Washington. There’s already plenty of buzz, from The Washington Post to Politico. Hopefully, that continues. Because, as is, far too much perfectly good food is wasted due to a generic date stamped on a package.
September 18, 2013 | Posted in General|Comments closed