Can packaging help reduce food waste
With an estimated 6.5 million tonnes of food going to waste each year in Australia, RMIT University researchers are investigating how changes to packaging could help cut food loss.
RMIT's Dr Karli Verghese is leading research into the role of packaging in reducing food waste.
Leading pallet, container and crate pooling services provider, CHEP Australia, has commissioned RMIT's Centre for Design to investigate where waste is being generated in Australia's food supply chains and the role of packaging in reducing or minimising that waste.
Dr Karli Verghese, Program Director Sustainable Products and Packaging at the Centre for Design, said a recent United Nations report estimated that one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption was lost or wasted globally each year.
"We're aware that around half of the world's food losses could be prevented through more efficient supply chains," Dr Verghese said.
"Understanding the reasons behind waste generation in the Australian food supply chain - in conjunction with other drivers such as changes in demographics, lifestyles and food consumption patterns - is paramount in addressing losses."
While there is no available data on the percentage of food grown or sold in Australia that eventually becomes waste, the per capita food loss for North America and Oceania is estimated to be about 280-300kg per year, equivalent to about 6.5 million tonnes of food waste in Australia annually.
"Packaging materials and systems play an important role in containing, protecting, preserving and distributing food stuffs," Dr Verghese said.
"These important functions are sometimes overlooked when food is moved and purchased across the supply chain.
"The ability to grow food in one region and distribute it throughout the country and the world is critical to food security, and is only possible with well-designed packaging systems."
The RMIT study includes desktop research in conjunction with interviews with key stakeholders across the fresh and processed food supply chains.
"This study is unique in that it takes the hot topic of food waste and maps it out against the role that packaging plays at each stage of the supply chain," Dr Verghese said.
"We are only at the tip of the iceberg in mapping out where food waste is generated and the reasons for that waste, but what we are seeing through our research is that food is being wasted at each stage of the life cycle - on the farm, in the packing sheds, in distribution, at retail, in food service and at home."
The results of the study - The Role of Packaging in Minimising Waste in the Supply Chain of the Future - will be released in May.