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Can Green Packaging Cause Food Waste?

In the United States, 67 billion pounds of food ends up in the trash each year. Food waste constitutes 21 percent of municipal solid waste–more than any other kind of waste. It is a big problem.

What can we do to help reduce food waste? Improve packaging. Unfortunately, sustainable packaging doesn’t always mean reduced food waste. According to Ron Cotterman, Vice President of Sustainability for Sealed Air, the relationship between packaging and food waste has changed significantly over the past decade. “Five or 10 years ago, people didn’t ask what packages were made of,” he says, referring to the new interest in sustainability. He adds, “Now we are more concerned about what packaging is made of than its performance.” That means more food goes bad.

This is not to say that sustainable packaging always has a negative effect on food waste. Packaging has an important role to play, and, when carefully considered, it reduces food waste. In some cases, though, material reduction will lead to earlier spoilage. According to Cotterman, a recent study revealed that the number of unsaleables has risen due to the increase in sustainable packaging initiatives.

So, what’s a package to do? There are a number of innovative packaging options that reduce spoilage. For example, reclosable packaging is an easy way to preserve food for a longer time.  Unique packaging options can lengthen shelf life, such as the biodegradable Evap. Pouches can help consumers empty out those final drops of food.

Speaking of those last little bits, scientists at MIT came up with a unique packaging addition to reduce food waste: LiquiGlide. LiquiGlide is a coating that makes packaging more slippery, eliminating the uneaten ketchup, dressing, and anything else that gets stuck in the bottom of the container.

There are some incredible green packaging initiatives that tackle the food waste issue… When it comes to food waste, sustainable packaging isn’t the issue, it’s part of the the solution. It’s a matter of innovation, collaboration, and paying attention.