Food waste is an issue that impacts us all, with devastating humanitarian, environmental, and economic consequences. The need to reduce food waste is especially important in wealthy regions of the world, where as much as half of all food waste arises from preventable losses by retailers and consumers.
Food waste is somewhat difficult to quantify, with studies using different methods to arrive at widely varying estimates. What we do know is that food waste is a massive issue, with studies indicating that 20% to 40% of all food produced in the world goes uneaten.
- The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) estimates that wasted food accounts for 1.3 billion of the 6 billion metric tons of edible food produced across the globe every year.
- In the U.S. alone, 31% of the food that reaches retailers and consumers is wasted, amounting to some 133 billion pounds of wasted food every year, according to the USDA.
- In other wealthy countries, where food is readily available and relatively cheap, the figures are similar, with close to 50% of food waste attributable to consumers and retailers.
These figures are shockingly high, but there is plenty that we—as manufacturers, retailers, and consumers—can do to make a difference. Packaging plays an important role in preventing damage and spoilage at retail and at home in several ways:
- physical protection to prevent damage
- barrier protection to delay spoilage
- security features to prevent tampering
- properties to promote shelf stability
- more efficient portion control
- marketing that encourages food sales
As a packaging producer, we know we have the potential to make a great impact on issues of food waste and packaging sustainability. In addition to offering a broad range of products designed to meet consumer demand for sustainability, Sonoco recently announced the Sonoco FRESH program, a 5-year, $2.725 million research partnership with Clemson University. Sonoco FRESH aims to address the problem of food waste through development of new packaging technology to optimize the shelf life of fresh food.
Interested in learning more about how we’re fighting food waste? Download our whitepaper.