Rather than cutting plastic altogether a study suggests 'smaller packaging' could be better for the environment - suggesting, while 'controversial', we should see more 'serving size packaging' not less.
Researchers at Karlstad University in Sweden studied the amounts of household food waste generated - finding larger packages result in uncertainty over date labels and food safety. Helén Williams (pictured), Associate Professor of Environmental and Energy systems, said: "Packaging is often described as a big environmental problem, but is necessary for transporting and protecting the food. "We should focus on the design of the packaging so that less food is wasted, since food waste has a much bigger impact on the climate. "Encouraging more serving size packaging at a time when many want to discontinue packaging completely, is controversial.
"But our research shows that food in smarter packaging, for example in smaller portions which can be eaten to a greater extent, are better for the climate even if more packaging materials are used.” "The purpose of the study was to find answers to why consumers throw away different types of food and what role the packaging has. "In the study researchers mapped food waste at product level. This with the help of 37 households in Karlstad and Stockholm who measured and logged their food waste, and participated in interviews. "The results show that the packaging design plays a bigger role than previous research has shown. "There are many factors to consider when different foods have different requirements for protection during transport and storage, and due to the variation in consumers' behaviour and priorities regarding how to handle the food. “The design was especially important for dairy products, meat, fish, bread, and foods with a long shelf life. "For dairy products, the design of the packaging caused nearly 70 percent of the generated food waste, and for meat and fish products 50 percent. "Products with long shelf life need more attention, because once opened they have a short shelf life.
"Several households threw out, for example, sauces, tomato products and olives when the packaging had too much content and there was a big uncertainty about the date labels and food safety. "The size needs to be adjusted and uncertainty of date labels and food safety reduced "Important packaging development is needed to reduce uncertainty concerning date labels and if the food is safe to eat, as well as adapting the packaging to meet the consumers’ needs so that they are not tempted to buy more food than they can eat. “16 percent of the food waste occurred because of past best-before-date, or because of uncertainty if the product is fit for consumption. Eight percent was discarded because the consumer was unable to eat all content because the packaging was too large. "In addition, an additional 21 percent of food waste was related to food that was spoiled in open packaging, which may mean that the packaging was too large. 5 percent of food waste was related to difficulty of emptying the packaging, this was mainly related to dairy products. “Today's food production accounts for one third of the climate impact. Developing packaging that makes us throw away less food is essential to reach the global climate goals. The food and packaging industry need to take greater responsibility in creating an understanding of consumer needs and behaviour." For more details click here