Plastic cups waste
Source: Pixabay

Elaine O’Connor, Origin Green Ambassador, USA

Packaging will play a vital role in reducing the amount of global food and produce waste. The FAO estimates that one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. Packaging is one of the reasons why food gets wasted while it also has a role in protecting food and keeping it fresh. There are many concerns today about the disposal of packaging, China announced last year that they no longer wanted to take the Western world’s recycling. According to Eurostat figures, Ireland is the EU’S top producer of plastic waste. There are environmental impacts from all this packaging waste particularly plastic packaging as it takes years and years for it to break down as it is made to be durable. Consumers are putting pressure on retail outlets to reduce or remove the amount of packaging on produce. Innovation such as eco-friendly packaging is key to solving the problem of packaging waste.

Lidl Ireland last week introduced more loose fruit and vegetables in the store stating that even more loose fruit and vegetables will be coming over the next few weeks. This also helps to cut out food waste as consumers can pick the quantity they require.

While last week McDonald’s announced they were working on removing all plastic straws from their UK restaurants. The company announced at the start of this year that they want to have 100% of its customer packaging coming from renewable, recycled, or certified sources and have recycling available in all its restaurants.

Starbucks is partnering with Closed Loop Partners to develop a recyclable, compostable cup solution. This would potentially divert paper cups from the landfill to be composted or given a second life as another cup or napkin. While other stores such as Pret A Manger are giving discounts to customers who bring their own mugs.

This follows on from a previous Food Alert on the world’s first plastic-free supermarket in Amsterdam. While in the US different states have put bans in place on the use of single-use straws in restaurants. From a retailer and food and drink manufacturer point of view, it is important to consider innovations to make it easier for consumers to reduce the amount of waste they generate.