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Waste less food
In developing countries the most food is lost by underdeveloped methods of production, conservation, packaging and marketing, from careless storage, inappropriate conditions of transport and a lack of infrastructure. However, in the developed and industrialized countries nearly all food losses are generated by consumers. It is estimated that within the EU more than 70 million tons of food are thrown away each year, which makes 300 kilograms per capita. Many people have lost the respect for food or are unable to deal with it properly. The packaging industry is aiming to fight this waste with packaging solutions that are specially designed for consumers.
In addition, charity organizations such as the Tafel fight the problem between superabundance and deficiency. The Tafel collects food that is no longer used and gives it to the needy. Part of this distributed food are goods in stock with best-before dates that end soon, bakery produce from the day before, surplus production, wrongly packaged products and greengroceries that have only little damage. “The Tafel can help hundreds of thousands of people with perfect products that do not even reach the market or are not sold for any reason,” says Gerd Häuser, the chairman of the management board of the Federal Association of German Tafel. Thus, the non-profit Tafel is one of the biggest social movements of our days. A positive side-effect for the environment is the fact that the amount of garbage is reduced.
However, the waste of food can furthermore be reduced by sustainable packaging and appropriate portioning. On the one hand, better packaging protects the groceries from contamination and spoilage so that the products arrive at the consumer in perfect condition. On the other hand, smaller portions and made-to-measure packaging can make more sense than large packaging, since the consumer is then more likely to eat or drink the product completely. In this respect, the packaging companies have to consider the changing habits of consumers, the social change, the demographic factors and the modern life style. One-person-households in cities demand other product quantities than families in rural areas. And the elderly like to eat other products than the young.
More and more consumers like to eat more consciously and look at the environmental performance of their food. Analyses of the life cycle for ready-to-serve food, from cultivation to consumption, show that packaging has often little importance to the ecological footprint. “Life-cycle analyses show that the expenditure of resources for packaging has only little importance within the value creation chain from food cultivation to the offering in the supermarket and the consumer behavior of a single person,” says the manager of the Association of Aluminum Industry, Stefan Glimm. For example, lasagna instant meals are usually packaged with aluminum, for it is heat resistant, heat-conducting, ductile and light. According to a study of the Dusseldorf Aluminum Association, packaging does not play an important role, with respect to ten indicators of the environment, neither as far as the Cumulative Energy Demand is concerned, nor Global Warming, Ozone Layer Depletion, nor Eutrophication. By far, the meat production, storage and the preparation in the oven have a bigger effect on the environment. The studies result in similar answers in the case of butter, yoghurt and chocolate, since their production has a greater influence on the ecological footprint than their packaging. With respect to coffee, it is rather a question of how much superfluous water is boiled than a matter of how the coffee packaging is produced. “The consumer behavior has by far more effects on the sustainability of a product than its production”, summarizes Glimm.
Nevertheless, the packaging industry gives more and more priority to the sparing of resources along the entire supply chain. Thus it was examined what effects natural cork and screw tops of wine bottles have on the environment. The surprising result: The qualities of screw tops are much more important for the environmental profile of a typical bottle of wine than their production. Wine losses occur if the fragile taste is disturbed - and corked taste is a well known failure. Wine bottles with cork tops have a loss between 2 to 5 percent, however wine bottles with screw tops lose only 0.2 to 0.5 percent. Altogether, the CO2-balance of wines with cork is twice as bad as that of wines with screw tops.