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Inside Retail & AusPack 2022

Fighting food waste: How packaging and machinery are tackling it head-on

(Source: Bigstock.)

Food waste has been high on the agenda for some years but since the pandemic hit, sustainability has now become a permanent fixture within the sector and savvy industry players are racing towards finding solutions.

In fact, according to a report on the issue from the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association, more than two-thirds of respondents indicated that their organisation has been successful in reducing food waste. More than half believe their efforts have made a significant impact on food waste and loss reduction. 

Interestingly, 56 per cent of the organisations believe that sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand and 87.5 per cent believe the industry has many opportunities and capabilities to tackle food waste.  

Here are some of the fascinating ideas that are being discussed in the packaging and processing machinery industry right now around managing food waste.

It’s a team effort

Managing food waste needs to take on a whole-of-chain approach, especially as measuring food waste and loss is a particularly significant issue for the industry, said industry respondents. The packaging and processing machinery sector includes a wide range of approaches, technologies and capabilities that can significantly reduce food waste, but it requires a collaborative approach.

“Food waste and loss occurs across the whole supply chain and preventing waste, therefore, involves an integrated approach that is informed by a deep understanding of the factors and uncertainties that cause waste across the chain, from farm to fork,” concluded the report.

Regulatory opportunities

It was clear through the survey that industry experts believe that the government needs to come to the table and create more incentives and regulations.

Only a minority of the firms (16.6 per cent) agreed that the right policies and incentives are in place and that more needs to be done by the government as well as industry innovation in relation to financing. 

Some of the suggestions from respondents include a reduction in energy costs for industry and food producers and manufacturers and economic rewards to incentivise companies that reduce unnecessary packaging or meet food waste targets. Another idea was a research and development stimulus package.

Retailers need to get on board

It’s vital that retailers show leadership when it comes to food waste, from driving conversations around reducing plastic to embracing 2D barcodes, which help to clarify product details such as expiry dates.

“You cannot look at food waste without looking at plastic. It is physically impossible to not have that tie in,” said one industry expert.

Some respondents pointed out that retailers aren’t yet fully taking advantage of the technology available to extend the shelf life of their products. In fact, their current practice of constantly moving products from chilled to non-chilled environments is spoiling their food.

“It’s very important that the chilled logistics chain is in place because you’re going from chilled to hot,” said one respondent. “What they’re doing is heating it, chilling it, heating it, chilling it, and it actually adds to the spoilage.”

Another respondent added: “We’ve been banging our head against a brick wall for five years is the blunt answer. The only way it’s going to move forward is if the retailers drive it. Simple as that.” 

Revealed: The top opportunities in the packaging and consumption stages

According to respondents, the greatest opportunities to reduce food waste lie in the packaging and consumption stages of the supply chain. These include:

  1. Consumer education to reduce household waste. 
  2. Balancing shelf-life extension via packaging with waste reduction. 
  3. Education/communication throughout the supply chain.
  4. Regulatory support/financial incentives.
  5. A relaxation of cosmetic measures of food appearance via major retailers.
  6. Automation.
  7. Cleaning practices.

To speak with the innovative suppliers offering cutting edge technology to reduce food waste and more, visit: https://www.auspack.com.au/exhibitor-directory