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Solving waste starts with good design and closing the loop

Sealed Air

Packaging company Sealed Air is helping address food waste through its CRYOVAC food packaging brand.

Sealed Air is working hard at helping to reduce the large amounts of global food waste which is costing the world’s economy billions of dollars.

Australia’s food waste problem is costing the economy around $20 billion per annum, with 7.3 million tonnes of food wasted every year. This wastage equals out to about 300kg per person, or one in five bags of groceries. It’s been calculated that food waste accounts for more than five per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The most talked about areas of waste right across the food industry are food waste and packaging waste.

But for many food producers it’s the waste you cannot see like the land, water and energy required to harvest products that create the biggest issues.

“Waste in all forms is a cost and has environmental impacts for the food and beverage sector. Reducing the carbon footprint of products starts by becoming more efficient, reducing resource consumption and by wasting less,” said Alan Adams, Sealed Air’s sustainability director for the Asia Pacific region.

“Waste reduction opportunities can be identified by looking at the life cycle of any product and can be identified right across the food supply chain network.”

Food waste

Packaging can play a role in food waste reduction by providing protection against physical damage and contamination as well as extending shelf life, and when the consumption window of products is maximised it helps reduce any waste.

While food waste also means resource waste, food waste diverted to landfill contributes to global warming because it emits methane gas which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Packaging waste

“Sustainable Packaging Design principles are fundamental when it comes to minimising packaging waste,” said Adams.

2025 targets have accelerated efforts towards solutions that are recyclable, but according to APCO’s Australian Packaging Consumption and Recycling Data 2018-2019, the total Australian post-consumer packaging recovery in 2018–19 is estimated to be 2.98 million tonnes, or about 14 per cent.

While recycling infrastructure develops to support industry goals, the easiest way to reduce waste is by using less to begin with.

“There’s a sweet spot when it comes to packaging design and food waste. It is the minimum amount
of packaging needed to deliver the required shelf life and ensure there are no accumulated losses through damage,” said Adams.

“Balancing performance and protection is an art, particularly when your product lands in the hands of consumers who have a strong sentiment for sustainable packaging. Education on what the packaging does is key.”

According to figures from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, one third of the world’s food is lost to waste, which in turn produces eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind the USA and China.

“When it comes to addressing the packaging sweet spot, Cryovac brand Darfresh on Tray vacuum skin packaging is a great example,” said Adams.

Compared to traditional modified atmosphere packaging formats, Darfresh vacuum skin technology has enabled advances in the shelf life of beef from 12 days to 28 days.

“Not only does this allow a wider window for consumption of fresh proteins and the reduced potential for food waste in households, but it also enables food processors to distribute far and wide, making their product more accessible to more people.” said Adams.

Reducing processing waste is a key goal for processors and Cryovac Darfresh on tray enables 100 per cent film utilisation, meaning zero plastic processing scrap and no subsequent downstream waste that has to be managed.

“The bottom polypropylene Darfresh tray can have lower side profiles than a modified atmosphere pack with a soaker pad, and is curb side recyclable,” said Adams.

“The pack’s top film is accepted by in store recycling programs under the rinse and return program. Comprising many convenience features including long shelf life, leak proof seals to keep things fresh and tidy, as well as its freezer ready format, Darfresh on Tray helps drive out waste across the entire supply chain – from processors to retailers and consumers.”

While it’s easy to tackle the waste you can see, often weighing on the minds of processors is the waste you can’t see like energy and time.

With Australia’s fresh red meat industry bearing a high cost of production, driving throughput efficiency through your plant is essential.

“Where there is efficiency, there is less waste. SEE Smart Link is a digital technology platform that enables enhanced packaging equipment performance and functionality,” said Adams.

Developed and offered exclusively by Sealed Air, this secure, cloud-based platform collects, stores, and analyses real-time production data that can be used for monitoring, process control, and predictive actions that drive improved efficiency and performance against your custom KPIs.

“Sustainability underpins all that we do at Sealed Air as we aspire to make the world better than we found it. The impact of climate change shapes a lot of what we do here,” said Adams.

“We know food waste and product damage leaves behind a significant carbon footprint, so often we need to remind the industry that packaging is the hero in its ability to protect against waste and damage.”

A life cycle and total impact analysis is the best way to navigate the most sustainable outcome for the supply chain.

“And we can’t do this alone. We are partnering with industries who can support today’s numerous packaging waste challenges and transform today’s model into a circular economy,” said Adams.

“Sealed Air Europe, together with retailer Tesco’s, Plastic Energy and SABIC have delivered a closed loop circular economy whereby soft plastic collected in store was recycled, via Plastic Energy, into oil.

“This oil was refined to make new plastic pellets and in turn converted by Sealed Air back into plastic cheese packaging placed back on Tesco shelves. This is a great achievement and demonstrates how industry collaboration has the potential to drive some remarkable outcomes.”

Reducing waste is imperative for Sealed Air who have a webinar on June 23, titled Designing Out Waste Across Food Supply Chains, which is formatted to help promote methods companies can employ to lower the amount of waste.

Whether packaging waste, food waste or resource waste, the webinar will have sessions designed to answer any questions decision makers may have.

“The industry is taking it very seriously and by setting 2025 targets, we’re fast tracking our efforts towards a more sustainable future,” said Adams.

“For us to achieve our outcomes, industry engagement and collaboration is non- negotiable. We expect brand owners to connect with consumers about food waste and their role in reducing waste.”

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