European manufacturers to halve food waste, Australian research quantifies food waste

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st July 2013

Representatives from across Europe’s food supply chain have committed to reducing food waste, in line with the European Commission’s goal of halving food waste by 2020. Meanwhile, in Australia, research from RMIT University in Melbourne has found that packaging will play a “vital role” in addressing food waste in Australia.

European food manufacturers agree to halve food waste by 2020

In Europe, food manufacturers from across the supply chain have announced the launch of a joint effort to tackle the problem of food waste through the publication of a Joint Declaration entitled ‘Every Crumb Counts’.

Launched at an event in Brussels where guests included members from the European Parliament, the European Commission , various Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and industry representatives, co-signatories of the Declaration said they aimed to work towards preventing edible food waste. The Declaration would promote a “life-cycle approach” to reducing wastage and be proactive.

The co-signatories to the Declaration include European food and beverage industry group FoodDrinkEurope, the European Organsation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN), the European Federation of Foodbanks (FEBA), the European Potato Trade Association (Europatat), the European fresh produce association Freshfel Europe, the European Plastics Converters (EuPC), the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), and European food service sector group FoodService Europe.

Australian researchers identify packaging design as a key issue

Meanwhile, in Australia, research conducted by RMIT University’s Centre for Design and commissioned by pallet and container company CHEP Australia, has shown where and why food waste occurs both along the fresh and processed food supply chain.

The research identifies opportunities for industry to address food waste through innovative and sustainable primary, secondary and tertiary packaging.

The authors, led by Dr Karli Verghese RMIT Senior Research Fellow, said their study “addresses a knowledge gap” identified by the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s (AFGC) ‘Future of Packaging’ white paper in understanding food waste to inform product and packaging design. The study, titled ‘The role of packaging in minimising food waste in the supply chain of the future’, focuses on the commercial and industrial food supply chain.

“Food security is an emerging challenge for both policy makers and companies in the fresh and manufactured food supply chains, however no significant research had previously been conducted into the role that packaging plays in minimising food waste in Australia,” Dr Verghese said.

“Packaging actually plays a critical role in protecting fresh produce and processed food in transit, in storage, at point of sale and prior to consumption,” Dr Verghese said. “In doing so it helps deliver a wide range of functions while reducing food waste,” she said.

While households are the largest contributor of food waste to landfill (2.7 million tonnes each year), according to the report the largest generators in the commercial and industrial sector are:

  • food services (661,000 tonnes)
  • food manufacturing (312,000 tonnes)
  • retailing (179,000 tonnes)
  • wholesale distribution (83,000 tonnes)

The study’s authors noted that food waste recovery rates were extremely high in the manufacturing sector, with 90 per cent of waste repurposed.

“While some food waste in the supply chain is inevitable – for example, trimmings from fresh produce and preparation waste in manufacturing and food services – other waste is avoidable,” Dr Verghese said.

The research identified opportunities for improvement where food waste is incurred through things such as poor inventory management, overstocking of shelves or product damage during transport and handling.

“There are certainly opportunities to minimise food waste through packaging innovation and design, such as improved ventilation and temperature control for fresh produce, and better understanding the dynamics between different levels of packaging, to ensure they are designed fit-for-purpose,” Dr Verghese said.

CHEP said that all members of Australia’s food supply chain have a role to play in addressing food loss and food waste.

“As a partner in many food supply chains, and a leader in reusable packaging with an inherently sustainable business model, CHEP wants to be a part of the solution and we would welcome opportunities to work with industry to create even more sustainable packaging solutions,” said Phillip Austin, President of CHEP Australia and New Zealand.