Environmentally-responsible approach in fresh produce packaging
|Growing attention to food loss and food waste is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals|
|Shay Zeltzer firstname.lastname@example.org|
|September 24, 2020|
"Plastic out!" The call for banning plastic packaging altogether is likely to lead to the opposite effect than desired. Instead of reducing of carbon footprint the unavoidable implication of eliminating packaging will increase fresh produce waste which not only will it take toll on the environment but also increase hunger, reduce food security and drive fresh produce prices higher than it is now.
So what do we do about it?
5 Principals in the approach towards environmental responsibility in fresh produce marketing.
Environmentally-responsible approach includes:
Growing attention to food loss and food waste is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG Target 12.3 calls for halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food loss along production and supply chains (including post-harvest losses) by 2030 . Discussing tradeoffs between increased fresh produce waste and the use of plastic packaging, the report further spells that "it is important to look at the entire packaging–product system in life cycle analyses to assess properly the total environmental burden of measures adopted… Adequate packaging may prevent food losses or waste by protecting and extending the shelf life of food products. Packaging is increasingly blamed for having one of the highest environmental footprints in the food system. However, assessments of its environmental impact often overlook the benefits that it brings in reducing food losses or waste. To evaluate the total environmental burden of food packaging adequately, the environmental footprint of the losses or waste that are avoided by using it, as well as the potential for recycling the packaging, must be considered. The net balance of environmental benefits and damage varies between food products. Using packaging to avoid losses of products with a heavy footprint in production may bring more environmental gains than not using packaging and facing a higher level of losses"
Fresh produce always makes it to the cashier in a bag (or other packaging type), this is a fact.
Then how do you know which packaging material to use?
Fig. 1:Not all plastic bags are the same. Various film materials are tested for its potential to preserve the freshness and presentation of broccoli.
The optimal packaging would be the one that preserves the freshness of the produce packaged, minimizes dehydration, prevents formation of fogging and free water droplets and delays other senescence related physiological processes. The right packaging has the potential to reduce waste to near zero figures. In addition to its impact on the produce itself, the packaging material chosen should be the lowest in gauge possible, made of mono polymers, recyclable or compostable.
The role of the regulation
Fig. 2: ExtendCast Broccoli by ROP (right) vs. commercially used polyethylene bag (left)