Australia – Australians are among the worst food wasters in the world, throwing away almost $50 billion annually according to recycling king Anthony Pratt, but the introduction of new Australian food packaging innovations could save millions of tonnes of waste – and millions of dollars – for local food producers and consumers.
The proposed Fight Food Waste and Fraud Cooperative Research Centre ranks new packaging innovations among its priorities, believing that implementing improved packaging could swiftly introduce positive change to Australia’s food industry sustainability.
Ensuring that all future food packaging incorporates Save Food Packaging design elements will make serious improvements in curbing food waste, according to Nerida Kelton, executive officer of the Australian Institute of Packaging.
AIP launched the Save Food Packaging awards two years ago, in conjunction with the World Packaging Organisation, to encourage improved food packaging that reduces food waste. Australia is the first country to accept the WPO invitation to initiate this award, and Australian winners were showcased at the international Interpack trade exhibition in Germany during May, 2017.
“I think many countries were surprised how advanced some of the Australian innovations are in Save Food Packaging design,” says Ms Kelton, who attended Interpack. “It shows that Australian food packaging technologists and designers are taking a lead in the world, and eyes are on us to see what is delivered next.”
The winning designs showed great advances in Cryovac and portion control solutions, and improved use-by-date information to help prevent wastage of packaged foods. Now, the Australian Institute of Packaging wants to encourage industry support to ensure the widespread implementation of these world-leading innovations.
“The CRC will help these innovations get embraced further in food industry production,” says Ms Kelton. “It will make a huge difference if improved Save Food packaging design becomes standard criteria for all manufacturers. The CRC can provide a national platform that accelerates positive change. We can’t have a fragmented approach if we expect to see necessary improvements.”
Research and evidence-based education will play a vital role in the implementation of improved food packaging. “The most immediate need is to obtain clear and accurate mapping of where food waste occurs in the supply chain – and why,” says Associate Professor Karli Verghese, principal research fellow in industrial design at RMIT University, who has been working with the Australian Institute of Packaging. “There are so many opportunities to value add rather than simply view food waste as compost; we need more innovations to be understood and embraced.”
New South Wales Government estimates put the cost of food waste for average households at $3,800 a year, although new modelling suggests this conservative sum could be much higher. Such extensive waste has serious international implications, potentially damaging Australia’s valuable image of being a clean and green food producer.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has estimated that a third of food produced globally is wasted, being about 1.3 billion tonnes. Australia’s estimated 7.6 million tonnes of wasted food converts into 19.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent – or 3.5% of the nation’s total emissions. It also wastes over 1.46 million ML of water each year.
“We have been working on this issue since 2011, but with the CRC bid partners coming together, we are finally seeing momentum to get this happening,” says Associate Professor Verghese. “A broader understanding of what is required in food packaging improvements will provide positive change.”