A path to circularity
A circular economy means seeing materials, parts and products that keep circulating, while retaining their value in the economy for as long as possible.
As the Green Alliance describes circularity, it is generally envisaged as a series of concentric loops, with those that enable the highest value to be retained, like reuse and remanufacturing, at the centre, and those of less value, like recycling, on the outside.
The challenges and opportunities for the food industry to become more sustainable are outlined in a white paper Food Packaging Versus Food Waste – Moving Towards a Circular Economy, sponsored by Ishida Europe and Aston Business School.
As we all know, the food sector needs to become more sustainable, and the white paper, written by Dr Stella Despoudi, lecturer in operations and supply chain management at Aston Business School, provides an overview of current trends in the food packaging sector and the wider modern society that are driving the move towards the creation of a circular economy and suggests appropriate solutions to help organisations implement these.
Six megatrends were identified through literature review which are:
- Initiatives for plastic packaging reduction
- Sustainable food packaging
- Food packaging and labelling regulations
- Consumer trends
- Innovative food packaging technologies and Packaging 4.0
- The cost of modern food packaging
The findings suggest that sustainable food packaging are possible in a number of ways such as stakeholder and cross-governmental collaborations, the adoption of an overall lifecycle food product perspective, the development of safe as well as sustainable food packaging, as well as assessment of long-term implications of novel food packaging materials.
Both Aston Business School and Ishida Europe should be praised for their collaborative approach in bringing together food producers and packaging manufacturers, along with representatives from legislative and academia.
The fact that there is such open discussion with all stakeholders is testament to a commitment to ensure, as Dr Despoudi points out, “the big picture is in mind.”
It’s clear there is a balance to strike between a reduction of packaging materials and “improving food safety, maintaining cost-effectiveness and reducing food waste.”
The paper says achieving food waste reduction could increase grain supply, food availability and food security without wasting other resources such as land, labour and water, and the circular economy is being identified as a way to achieve this.
Yet, there are many challenges among these findings, which emphasises the complexity in many of the issues raised. If we are to drive a reduction in plastic packaging, it is essential to ensure that potential alternative packaging materials do not impact on food waste. This is at the same time as having the technology to maintain efficiencies in addition to being fully compatible with these alternative materials.
The White Paper is a good source of information and it has put in focus on the need for collaboration, increased consumer education and engagement to tackle these challenges in the development of the best solutions.
- Rodney Jack, editor, Food & Drink Technology.
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