How to Use Packaging to Reduce Food Waste

In 2015, an estimated 7.3m tonnes of household food waste was discarded in the UK. In an attempt to put a stop to this issue, numerous solutions have been launched in the packaging industry, including size reduction packs, bio plastics and recyclable materials.

Combating consumer food waste through packaging has been looked at as one of the more effective solutions to overcome this challenge. According to statistics, more than half of the UK’s total food waste derives from consumers and costs each household circa £470 annually.

Lidding films to tackle the problem

Earlier this year, international developer and supplier of packaging solutions, KM Packaging Services Ltd, launched a new lidding film which offers enhanced seal integrity and puncture resistance. The ‘KPeel Flex Pet’ film aims to help reduce food waste in the manufacturing and supply chain as it offers high impact resistance even under frozen conditions, and is particularly suited to applications where food is pre-baked or cooked in a tray before film sealing takes place.

Graham Holding, commercial director at KM Packaging said: “Whilst the food industry itself is responsible for only a proportion of the waste, it’s believed that poor or damaged packaging is a notable contributor. KPeel Flex Pet is a real breakthrough in technology that we are confident provides a robust, reliable solution to protect all manner offoodstuffs, and it is rapidly becoming a go-to film for demanding sealing requirements.”

Flexible polymers: oil-based, biodegradable and recyclable alternatives

Aside from lidding films, another solution the industry is working with is more sustainable polymers. Aquapak Polymers Ltd has recently introduced HydroPol – a library of flexible polymers, which is oil-based yet biodegradable and fully recyclable. Dissolving in water, Hydropol bypasses the traditional barriers of flexible plastics recycling, and has been shown to be non-toxic to marine life, making it a much more sustainable alternative to the current polymers in use.

Dr John Williams, business development director at Aquapak Polymers Ltd said: “Flexible plastic packaging is here to stay. Bags, pouches, lids and sachets provide a lightweight and resource-efficient solution for packaging food safely. For too long, we have been wedded to particular polymers which are neither biodegradable nor compostable. Flexible plastics pose particular challenges both in waste processing equipment and in the natural environment.

He continues: “Unusually for a plastic, HydroPol is hydrophilic, so food is also less likely to perish from sweating and it offers the consumer a sustainable alternative that still protects their purchase. It significantly reduces the environmental impact of flexible plastic packaging, without requiring a change in consumer behaviour.”

New initiatives: start-ups create solutions 

In 2015, start-up Revive Eco started to transform coffee ground waste into fertilisers and biomass pellets that could be used as a low carbon heating source. The Revive Eco team collects used coffee grounds from coffee shops across Scotland, which is then taken to their bio-refinery. Here, the natural bio-oils from the grounds are extracted, leaving a carbon-rich by-product.

Fergus Moore, co-founder at Revive Eco said: “According to figures from the International Coffee Organisation, approximately 500,000 tonnes of coffee ground waste ends up in landfill every year in the UK. My two co-founders, Scott and Rebecca, and I worked in cafes, restaurants and bars at university, and saw first-hand how much coffee goes to waste on a daily basis. Creating Revive Eco was our way of addressing the issue.”