Flexible Packaging’s Role in Fighting Food Waste

Flexible packaging is getting more sustainable thanks to developments in recyclable and compostable films, more efficient equipment, solventless inks and more, but there’s one other major sustainability category that flexible formats can greatly help with that should be getting more attention: food waste.

Consider this: Water, land, energy, labor and other resources are necessary to grow and produce food. And according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one-third of the world’s food production is lost or wasted every year. That’s about 1.3 billion tons. What’s more is that food waste is believed to be a major contributor to climate change. In addition to resources that are ultimately wasted when food is discarded, food waste generates methane once it gets to landfill. Methane is believed to be more than 20 times as potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat within the atmosphere, per a report in the Scientific American

Here are some other food waste tidbits to chew on, per the FAO:

  • Produce is among the most wasted type of foods.
  • Food losses account for about $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing ones.
  • In developing countries, most food is lost or wasted at the later stages in the supply chain.

As you can see, food waste is a serious problem – and it’s imperative that solutions are uncovered to reduce the amount that is discarded. One big solution is in the packaging.

Flexible Packaging and Food Waste

So how can flexible packaging help decrease food waste? By extending shelf life so more food can be consumed and not discarded. According to the Flexible Packaging Association, flexible packaging’s film properties and add-on features (i.e., sliders and closures) are able to help extend the shelf life of foods by several days – perhaps even weeks. This is especially notable when you consider that about two-thirds of all discarded food is due to spoilage. This is a big talking point from flexible packaging companies, such as ePac packaging. For instance, when it comes to non-flexible versus flexible formats, zucchini’s shelf life can go from one day to five days. Green beans can go from seven days to 19 days. Table grapes can go from seven days to 70 days. Ground beef can go from three days to 20. Chicken can go from a week to 20 days. And the list goes on and on.

Here at ePac Flexible Packaging, we take sustainability very seriously, and we’re always looking to complement our digital flexible packaging business model with more environmentally friendly films, material sources and strategies. And every food product that is packaged in an ePac digital printed stand up pouch is sustainable in the sense that it helps extend shelf life. Combine this with the eco-friendly films, initiatives such as the How2Recycle label from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and other green materials involved throughout the packaging supply chain, and it’s easy to see how flexible packaging has the potential to become the premiere format for sustainability.