Most would agree food waste is something everyone should be working together to help reduce. The scale and impact of the issue is significant.
According to the Waste & Resources Action Programme, 10 million tonnes of food and drink is thrown away each year, 60% of which could be avoided. The ethical, environmental and economic implications are challenging for industry and consumers.
Difficulty finding answers
The multiplicity of actors involved in the food chain makes it difficult for sustainable answers to be found that have a realistic prospect of success. Even finding a common definition of ‘food waste’ remains an almost impossible challenge.
While national governments consider potential policy and regulatory solutions, market-specific initiatives have largely emerged under two themes.
First, consumer empowerment and education – enabling consumers to fully understand the meaning of durability coding on food products and support recognition of what constitutes a quality date and a safety date. Second, strategies that encourage the redistribution of leftover and short shelf-life stocks by producers to those most in need.
Plastic packaging impact
The recent outcry over the impact of plastic packaging on the environment has done nothing to simplify approaches to the problem. Plastic packaging often performs a functional role, helping extend shelf-life and protecting products from contamination.
Moves to reduce it could result in a reduction in the quality and safety attributes of products, potentially increasing food waste over time as the shelf-life is shortened.
The problem demands holistic consideration of the full supply chain. A wider impact assessment of initiatives designed to achieve mutual outcomes of reducing both food and packaging waste should be sought by those driving the waste reduction agenda.