Packaging cuts fresh green bean waste

The US foodservice industry is discovering the benefits of receiving fresh green bean supplies in lean, modified atmosphere bulk packaging (MAP) newly developed by sustainable packaging experts StePac. The company’s solution under the brand name Xtend targets food waste in the foodservice supply chain and delivers added benefits of preserving the quality, crispiness, and glossy green color of fresh green beans while maintaining full fresh flavour.

Green beans are grown in South Florida and Tennessee, with peak season from November to May. A large percentage of the green beans are packed and shipped to the foodservice industry. But fresh green beans have a short shelf life of around 8 to 12 days. Dehydration, a common post-harvest problem, causes the pods to shrivel and become limp from progressive weight loss and plastic packaging is often used to reduce this waste.

However, excess moisture generated in standard packaging aggravates decay and russeting — reddish-brown spots that result from chilling injury when beans are stored at 5-7.5°C (41-45°F). Foodservice outlets must discard food supplies that do not meet specifications for appearance and quality and are rendered unfit for consumption.

StePac developed modified atmosphere packaging films inbuilt with ideal water vapor transmission rates (WVTR) that eliminate the excess moisture from fresh green bean packaging, mitigating risk of decay and reducing sensitivity to russeting. The company’s proprietary solution also preserves the crispiness and glossy green color of fresh green beans and prevents excessive weight loss caused by dehydration.

Food waste is an estimated $100bn problem within the hospitality sector alone, reports Winnow, producers of a device that monitors food waste in commercial kitchens. “Food waste in the foodservice sector is a major challenge, affecting the entire global food value chain,” notes Gary Ward, Ph.D., Business Development Manager for StePac. “Our technology offers a solution for helping curb that waste and enhancing the quality of the produce reaching the kitchens. It also isn’t limited to green beans but extends to a range of other vegetables, such as peas, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and others that are freshly bulk packed exclusively for the foodservice sector.

StePac’s packaging solutions can help increase the shelf life of green beans and other vegetables, often by as much as 50-100 per cent, and allows foodservice providers to serve vegetables cooked from higher quality fresh produce, more sustainably and with reduced waste.

StePac offers a range of films that cater to nearly every requirement. In addition to Xtend carton liners, its groundbreaking Xflow films, with their patented sealing layer, have facilitated applicability for automated packaging, such as vertical form-fill and seal (VFFS) packing. This lets the packaging of green beans and other vegetables meet the demands of high turnover facilities and is already gaining momentum within facilities in regions of the US, especially Florida.

“The new Xflow packaging supports high-speed, high-throughput automated packaging lines for fresh vegetables; supports distributors and growers; and better meets the needs of hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and other institutions across the US,” adds Ward. “Foodservice sites can receive enhanced quality produce while enjoying the benefits of reduced labor costs.”

This solution for automated packing of fresh green beans for foodservice applications adds to the comprehensive portfolio of packaging solutions StePac offers for fresh vegetables. The portfolio includes bulk carton liners, preformed bags (including standing pouches for retail applications) as well as films for VFFS, flowpack and topseal for retail packaging formats.

Packaging initiatives designed to reduce food waste

The scale of food waste globally is epic. It is a huge amount of waste. It is probably one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. Not only because of the food waste itself, but the resources and the cost of that waste. Not only the food that people don’t use and consume, but all the resources wasted going into producing that food.”

Thus said Sealed Air’s sustainability director Alan Adams. He was speaking on the Food Waste Stage at the Australian Waste and Recycling Expo in a session titled The Role of Packaging in Minimising Food Waste. Emceed by FIAL’s manager of food sustainability, Sam Oakden, Adams was joined by the Australian Institute of Packaging’s (AIP) executive director, Nerida Kelton, as well as Mark Barthel, who acts as a special advisor to the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

Being a plastics packaging specialist, Adams knows that Sealed Air and other companies that use the multi-purpose product are fighting an uphill battle with regard to public perceptions of packaging. Not just plastic, but any type of packaging that is not seen as being biodegradable (at a minimum) or compostable. However, as his title suggests, he, along with the other panellists, champion sustainability.

It is no longer in anybody’s interest to have what can best be described as a laissez faire attitude towards packaging.

For some time now, industry bodies such as the AIP have been pushing for designers to produce smarter and more environmentally friendly packaging. And it’s beginning to pay off. But Adams still belts out statistics that show there is still a long way to go.

“Food that is wasted consumes up to 25 per cent of the world’s potable water,” said Adams. “That’s the environmental cost. Alongside that, the decomposing food we don’t eat generates greenhouse gases, another significant environmental challenge. Then there are the costs including the social cost.

“Every country around the world has some people with food insecurity. It’s criminal that we waste so much food.”

To encourage packaging designers to put their ideas out there, and at the behest of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), the AIP created the Australasian Packaging Innovation & Design Awards (PIDA).

The awards, which are now in their sixth year, not only reward those designers who think outside the square, but have a more practical purpose – making sure that any ideas that contribute to sustainability and the reduction of food waste become part of the mainstream.

And it’s not just about extending shelf life – although that certainly adds to a reduction in food waste – but other criteria also need to be considered.

A more recent example is how packaging affects people with disabilities.

“If you look at the Arcadis baseline report this year, we have quite high losses in food waste in hospitals and aged care facilities,” said Kelton.

“Anybody designing packaging in Australia and New Zealand has a responsibility to consider this. What we can do to craft better and intuitive designs that can minimise food waste for people who have difficulty opening a package? It is not only the ageing population that has issues with difficult-to-open packaging; it is also people with disabilities, arthritis sufferers and even children. People can’t grip, open or close the product, which can be a huge issue.”

Having spent quite a bit of time in the UK recently, Barthel had some interesting insights into that market – some of which he wishes he could implement here. He worked in a behavioural interventions lab in the UK whereby they spoke to businesses and consumers about some of the challenges around food waste and came up with interesting ideas on how to reduce it.

“For example, with a standard size loaf of bread, we were finding that, more often than not, the last quarter of the loaf was ending up as waste,” said Barthel. “We worked with a couple of bakery companies and tested some visual cues. By the time a consumer got to the last part of the loaf, there was message on the packaging that said ‘freeze me, and toast me later’.

“It was mapping into a clear visual clue. It’s normalising behaviour – in this case freezing bread to store it properly so you don’t waste it.

“It is really a neat piece of behavioural intervention. It’s a combination of understanding behavioural science and how you communicate that science to consumers, and the language, and using visual cues that they will get.”

Adams also came up with an example of the avocado, which made up part of entry in the Save Food Packaging Design Special Award in the PIDAs. One company had packaged avocados in such a way that the shelf life was extended markedly.

“Extending the shelf life of a product should be an obvious thing to do to reduce food waste,” he said. “It gives us more time to consume the product, more time to buy it, more time to enjoy it.

“What this company did was effectively make a guacamole product that had a shelf life of 90 days. An unseen win for this, was that when adding more shelf life, they also increased the processing window of the avocado industry. This enabled the industry to create products they can sell, therefore increasing the amount of harvest it utilised,” Adams said.
A lot of food that is produced, particularly in fresh produce, doesn’t even get off the farm, according to Adams. It doesn’t get sold or a chance to be eaten. Some packaging strategies can enable solutions that can help consumers use a larger slice of harvest.

Kelton also outlined how criteria for the Save Food Packaging Design special awards are evolving, with food waste playing an important part when a product is being considered for an award.

Measures include its resealability, openability, portion control, consumer convenience, extension of shelf life and barrier, recyclability, as well as smart and intelligent packaging and more.

“One of the most discussed criteria at the moment is; how do we meet the 2025 National Packaging targets , offer small portions, and provide consumer convenience?” said Kelton.
“That is where we hope the Save Food Packaging CRC project, led by the AIP, will engage with surveys, research, PhDs etc, as part of a project to better understand how it works and come up with really smart and intuitive design ideas that we can start implementing.”

Another topic covered during the session was that of Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs), which all three panellists agreed, that while laborious, are important in the designing process. While LCAs are not mandatory, the amount of information that can be garnered from doing one can be invaluable to both the designer and the customer.

“When it comes to LCAs, very few companies that I come across and I work with have a defined sustainable packaging strategy,” said Adams. “And if you don’t know where you are going, LCAs can be a waste of time, or potentially give the wrong result. I think it is incumbent on all of us to figure out what our objective is for the environment.”

“Optimisation, recycled content, functionality, shelf life extension – all of these things are important when it comes to designing packaging,” said Barthel. “An LCA is a really good way of underpinning that, although in saying that, I would be happy if I never had to do another LCA study in my entire life because they are so detailed. But, they have to be.”

“For the institute, LCAs are really important for all packaging designers and packaging specialists to do,” said Kelton.

“If you are not doing LCAs at the moment, you are going to miss out. How you are going to help customers? Because if you can find what the true impacts are across your value chain, then you can communicate that.

“It’s really important to the tell the customer what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you are extending the shelf life of meat because you are using vacuum packaging, tell them.”

One thing all three agreed on – and has been a theme being pushed by the AIP especially over the past 12 months – is that processors and manufacturers have to do a better job of selling packaging to consumers. A lot of the time it is seen as the “bad boy” of the supermarket shelf space, when in fact most companies are doing their utmost to not only reduce the amount of packaging they use, but also trying to extend the life of on-the-shelf products. Barthel put it succinctly when he summed up the packaging versus food waste conundrum.

Barthel has the last word on where food waste stands in the pecking order of having an effect on greenhouse gas production in the UK, but whose numbers can be easily transposed to Australia, too.

“The latest WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Plan) estimates that the total carbon footprint of food and drink consumed in the UK is 130 million tonnes CO2 eq per year,” he said.

“This is approximately equivalent (eq) to a fifth of UK territorial emissions, or two tonnes of CO2 eq per person per year.

“Excluding emissions from wasted items, the average impact of a tonne of food and drink purchased is 3.4 tonnes CO2 eq, rising to 3.8 tonnes of CO2 eq per tonne of food alone.”

Sustainable packaging extends the pomegranate season

Consumers can enjoy pomegranates for an extended season due to StePac., which has been pioneering advances in pomegranate packaging since 2003. The company introduces its latest range of sustainable packaging solutions for preserving the freshness and extending the shelf life of pomegranates and their extracted arils.

StePac has expanded its range to include new recyclable solutions, as well as packaging formats tailored to automation of both bulk and retail packing.

In spite of their tough exterior, whole fresh pomegranates host a range of challenges that arise with prolonged storage. In the absence of proper protection, the fruit can suffer significant dehydration and weight loss, causing it to shrivel. This may be accompanied by the development of skin blemishes and crown decay that eventually leaches into the fruit and impairs the quality and taste of the arils.

From orchard to table
StePac’s pomegranate packaging portfolio incorporates long storage packaging formats to meet the requirements of growers seeking glut management solutions for post-harvest bulk storage.

Pomegranate growers and packers are now able to load fresh-picked pomegranates directly at the orchard and store up to 400kg of the fruit in each specialized StePac Xtend® bin liner for periods of three months or longer, with no negative effect on the fruit. This is in addition to storage liners for weight of 10-80kg that are already widely used in many countries.

The Xtend line also includes unique carton liners that offer the ideal solution for maintaining fruit quality during the lengthy shipments to distant locations.

Leaner flowpack packaging for whole fruits
StePac developed film structures containing a unique sealing layer that facilitates leaner packaging and induces savings of up to 40 per cent in material use as well as reduced labor costs, by enabling pomegranates to be flow-packed in both bulk and retail formats.

100 percent recyclable retail packaging for arils
The company recently finalized development of fully recyclable Xgo lidding films and standing pouches to add to this category of retail-packaging products. These solutions are designed to inhibit postharvest microbial decay and extend the shelf life of extracted pomegranate arils for up to 17 days, preserving the fruit’s organoleptic properties. The lidding films are available in lean easy peel and resealable formats.

The company’s comprehensive range of lean and sustainable packaging solutions is designed to maintain pomegranate freshness throughout all stages of the supply chain. The technology is based on a unique modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) system that reduces respiration rates and ethylene production for a combined effect of slowing down ageing and ripening. It also inhibits the proliferation of pathogens.

Water vapour transmission technology enhances performance
StePac has developed a comprehensive repertoire of films with built-in abilities to regulate water-vapor transmission rates as well as provide optimal modified atmosphere conditions. The films incorporate distinct properties to cater to a range of pomegranate packaging applications.

“During prolonged storage of this fruit, it is paramount to strike the perfect balance between eliminating excess free moisture to mitigate the risk of microbial decay and to concurrently avoid excessive product dehydration,” said Gary Ward, business development manager for StePac. “Such balance depends on multiple synergistic factors, including surface area to volume ratio, produce weight, supply chain length, and shipping and storage conditions.”

“Pomegranates are in demand in every continent.” Ward enthuses. “The global reach of our technology is instrumental in addressing the challenges facing the pomegranate industry and for ensuring that both the whole fruit and the extracted arils reach the consumers— wherever they might be — in prime condition, while keeping waste to a minimum. Our holistic vision and pragmatic approach are embedded in a range of complex structures and packaging formats that deliver the extended shelf life and sustainability principles our customers seek. This approach evolved from our deep-rooted understanding and 25-year history of researching fresh produce pathology and physiology and its interaction with packaging design.”

New way to get rid of excess food

Imagine a stack of pallets full of surplus food – 4.1 million tonnes worth. And imagine you could stack those pallets on top of each other one at a time. Now, imagine that once stacked, these pallets would reach all the way from Earth to the International Space Station – 14 times over. That is how much commercial food waste there is every year in Australia alone. Remember, that is only commercial food waste, and doesn’t include household waste, which makes up another 34 per cent.

It’s a staggering statistic that still amazes Katy Barfield, who set up the Yume marketplace because she knew that there must be a better way of utilising surplus commercial food waste than throwing it away. It is not Barfield’s first foray into food waste recovery having started food rescue organisation SecondBite back in 2006. Although the organisation does a great job, Barfield soon realised that SecondBite, along with other food rescue organisations OzHarvest, Foodbank and Fareshare, only managed to move less than two per cent of that 4.1 million tonnes.

Barfield knew there had to be a better way. Therefore, Yume was born. The interactive website offers a platform where food and beverage manufacturers and processors, who would usually throw away production runs for a variety of reasons – wrong labelling, batch over-runs, cancelled orders – can put it on the site to be sold to interested third parties. When the idea was first mooted, Barfield thought it sounded pretty simple.

READ MORE: Australian food waste bill hits $10.1bn

“It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire career,” she said at a speech she gave at the Waste & Recycling Expo held in Sydney recently. “Because when I came up with the idea of doing this – whereby big brands and farmers could put this stuff onto the platform – and put it up for sale to a new cohort of new suppliers, people told me I was mad. They said, ‘no one will go for that. You’re cuckoo. Bonkers. Think you better start again’. Their reasoning was, ‘who was going to buy products unseen off an online platform?’”

It was a fair point at the time. In theory, the idea was great. Who wouldn’t support an initiative where food waste was lessened – it sounded like a win-win. The manufacturers and food processors get money for products that they would have to pay to get rid of, and third-party vendors get a quality product they can on-sell or utilise. However, Barfield also knew that, especially with some of the bigger name manufacturers, branding is more important than being seen to be eco-friendly. Barfield and her team found a way around it.

“Suppliers can white label their product on our platform,” she said. “You might not know who the brand is, or the history of the brand, but you will have all the history of the product you are receiving. It might say “quality cream cheese from South Australia”. They have to show you the certificates of analysis, so you know it is absolutely edible, and has passed food safety standards. It is quite hard to be a supplier on the Yume platform because we do need to protect everybody in the process including the people who sit on the other side, the buyers.”

And you would be surprised who has turned up on the site to buy produce. Accor is one company that has bought food via the platform, plus a number of industrial catering companies. Barfield admits it wasn’t easy to convince the bigger brands to come on board.

Once she gave them guarantees that the items would not appear on any of the major retailers, they began to list items on the site.

And what sort of dent has the site made on the food waste mountain? There is still a long way to go, but with more than 400 suppliers and 2,500 buyers registered on Yume, Barfield is confident that the site will only grow. Then there’s the environmental impact.
“The amount of embodied water we’ve moved through the platform is more than 86 million litres. That’s nearly 2500 tonnes of CO2 that hasn’t been released into the atmosphere,” she said. “There has been a trifold growth for Yume in the past 12 months.”

Sometimes it takes some lateral thinking to get rid of a product. Barfield cited an example involving cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s where the company had 7.5 tonnes of dried fruit that was at risk of being dumped. It came about because the company changed one of its cereal recipes and no longer needed the dried fruit. Kellogg’s specialises in making cereals for the mass market, and therefore didn’t have a ready market for left over ingredients.

“They put the dried fruit onto the Yume platform and that product sold within 48 hours to a whole raft of other, smaller manufacturers who could use that in the manufacturing process. It was a win-win-win,” said Barfield.

And just because it is a platform for foods doesn’t mean those who buy from the site aren’t thinking outside the square on how to move on similar products and find an end use for them in the marketplace.

“A lot of the companies we work with ask us if we could try and find a solution away from the norm,” said Barfield. “One of my personal favourites was about a substance called Maltitol, which is an artificial sweetener.

“We were asked to help find a home for it and we weren’t too sure. However, it was eventually sold to a pharmaceutical company that used it in coating some of its pills to make them easier to swallow. It was 14 tonnes worth of product that would have been wasted if it hadn’t found a home.”

One aspect that Barfield is pushing, and she thinks needs to be amplified, is that just because a product appears on the site, it doesn’t mean it is not of high quality. Yume recently facilitated the selling of some top-branded salmon to an industrial caterer because the salmon missed its delivery window by a day. Because it missed the delivery, it no longer met the requirement to have a shelf life of 10 days. However, it was still top quality and was consumed well before it’s use-by date.

One issue that Barfield had to think about was the impact of those that already supply to some of these areas. After all, if you’re a regular supplier to an aged care facility, but the chef who is in charge of the kitchen decides to buy cheaper food from Yume, where does that leave the regular supplier?

“We have thought about that. We knew that when we went into the market we had to think about what we were displacing. There is always some displacement that happens,” she said. “Yume is what I would call an opportunistic marketplace. You couldn’t rely on it to supply all your needs because it is part of an irregular supply chain. You can’t hop onto the platform and buy your entire shopping basket from Yume every week because the nature of surplus is that it changes all the time – sometimes hourly.”

Barfield said that Australia is leading the world with this technology and that the country needs to get more people wrapped around it and talking about it. She also believes that the government could do its bit to reduce food waste.

“The biggest change that can happen is to engage with the government,” she said. “The government is the largest procurer of food in the country – if you think about defence, education, aged care, health care, corrections facilities. That is taxpayers money that goes to fund the food for these institutions. Day in, day out, three times a day. If they just mandated that a certain percentage of product that was surplus had to be bought through a platform like Yume, we would significantly impact the amount of food currently going to waste. We would return more money to Australian farmers and manufactures. We would save taxpayers money.”

Australian’s annual food waste bill hits $10.1bn

Rabobank has released its 2019 Food Waste Report showing that Australians spent a total of $10.1 billion in 2019 on food that ended up in our bins rather than in our stomachs, up from $8.9 billion in 2018.

The Rabobank Food Waste Report highlights that Aussies are now wasting an average of 13 per cent of their weekly grocery spend, equating to $1,026 each year.

With food waste on the rise across all states and all generations, Australia as a nation is losing the battle against food waste with significant negative impacts for not only our hip pockets but also our planet.

Glenn Wealands, Head of Client Experience, Rabobank Australia said, “Food waste is one of the most significant challenges facing our nation and planet today.  According to the Food Sustainability Index, developed by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Australia is the fourth highest food waster in the world. Given the increasing pressure on the planet to provide for a growing population there is an urgent need for greater action across governments, industry, retailers, and consumers to drive real change.”

The biggest offenders when it comes to food waste are consumers. Household waste makes up 34 per cent of food waste nationally, with 31 per cent from primary production and 25 per cent from manufacturing.

“As individuals, each and every one of us can and must make a difference. When we waste food, the ramifications go far beyond just dollars, impacting our planet and precious resources. We know from this research that more than three quarters of us care about reducing food waste and are annoyed by it. However, it is alarming that less than three out of 10 of us recognise the impact our food waste has on the environment,” Wealands added.

We need to raise awareness and change behaviour
Most Aussies don’t link the impact of their own household waste to bigger picture issues with 54 per cent believing it contributes to landfill, yet only four in ten linking it to pollution and one third recognising it increases Co2 emissions. Less than a third of Australians connect the impact of their waste with climate change, water shortages and animals becoming extinct.

Consistent with previous years, the top reasons for household waste include food not being prepared properly, not knowing what to do with left overs, buying too much and changing plans.

Consumers are also finding new ways to waste food with the rapid uptake of food delivery services linked to our increasing food waste habits.

Gen Z has work to do
Gen Z are the future custodians of this planet, they make up a quarter of the population and are the most socially aware generation. However today, they’re also the biggest culprits when it comes to food waste, according to the survey, binning $1,446 of the food they purchase every year, up $234 from 2018.

Baby Boomers remain the least wasteful of all Australians, throwing out only $498 of their food.

Generation Value of annual food waste Change from 2018
Gen Z $1,446 + $234
Gen Y $1,394 + $175
Gen X $918 + $79
Baby Boomers $498 + $17
Across the states
In 2019, there was an increase in food waste across all of the states. However, Queenslanders have been keeping the closest eye on their waste habits, indicating the smallest increase in food waste year on year. People living in capital cities waste 14 per cent of their weekly shop, compared to people in rural areas who only waste 11 per cent.
State % of food wasted annually Change from 2018
QLD 11.8% + 0.5%
WA 13.3% + 0.9%
NSW 12.8% + 1.2%
NT 10.4% + 1.9%
TAS 11.4% + 2.3%
SA 12.8% + 2.4%
VIC 13.9% + 2.6%

Mr Wealands added: “But there is hope! We have some fantastic organisations in Australia that are committed to fighting food waste, such as OzHarvest, Foodbank and Yume.“However, we can definitely learn from best practice in other countries, for example, governments in Italy and France banned supermarket food waste in 2016, legislating that unsold goods must be given to food banks or charities. Ultimately, there must be a highlighted sense of urgency now, given we’re wasting more than ever before.”

The 2019 Rabobank Food Waste Report is part of Rabobank’s annual Financial Health Barometer (FHB), surveying over 2,300 financial decision makers aged between 18 and 65, polling attitudes and behaviours towards saving, debt, farming, food production and food waste.

State government gives $1 Million to Love Food, Hate Waste

In an Australian first, communities throughout NSW, including Sydney, the Central Coast, Mid-North Coast and North Coast, will take part in a program to reduce food waste in homes and businesses.

As part of Love Food Hate Waste NSW’s Love Food Communities grants, City of Sydney, Central Coast Council, Midwaste group and North East Waste group will each receive up to $250,000 to plan and deliver a two-year whole-of-city approach to food waste prevention.

These plans will include the delivery of the Love Food Hate Waste Food Smart and Your Business is Food programs to support local households and businesses to tackle food waste and educate them on how working together as a community can make a difference. As well as household and business, each project will target at least one other sector, including aged care, schools, hospitality or food manufacturers.

The four projects will reach 17,000 households and nearly 500 businesses and will be the first time a whole-of-community approach is taken to prevent food waste in NSW.

“Almost a million tonnes of food is thrown away by household and business in NSW each year, costing the average household an estimated $3,800 a year,” said Amanda Kane, acting director, Waste Programs, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

“We want to see less food being wasted across our communities and these grants will help to achieve this by changing behaviour and giving people and businesses the tools they need to make informed decisions.”

READ MORE: Woolworths reaches milestone in fight against food waste

“We’re excited to be able to help these four communities on their food waste reduction journey, while supporting our program goal to make food waste avoidance a social norm in NSW by 2021,” added Ms. Kane.

The Love Food Hate Waste program has awarded almost $1.6 million to 54 grant projects and is an important part of the NSW Government’s commitment to halve food waste by 2030, through the National Food Waste Strategy.

The Love Food Communities grants are funded through the NSW Government’s $105.5 million Organics Infrastructure Fund under Waste Less, Recycle More. This fund diverts food and garden waste from landfill by funding food waste avoidance education, kerbside organics collections, food processing and donations infrastructure and organics market development.

Food waste warrior wins

Katy Barfield has been named a winner in the Business and Entrepreneur category at the  AFR 100 Women of Influence Awards for being a serial innovator and Australia’s leading food waste warrior with a proven ability to rapidly scale organisations with a social conscience. Barfield has worked relentlessly over the past 14 years to address the environmental, economic and social impacts of edible food sent to landfill.

Most recently, Barfield has developed Australia’s first commercial online marketplace for quality surplus food, Yume. It is estimated that a massive 4.1 million tonnes of food still goes to waste annually in the commercial food sector in Australia. This is waste before food reaches the home.

Yume enables food suppliers, such as manufacturers, primary producers and importers, to sell their quality surplus products at a discount online to over 2500 commercial buyers in the food service industry such as caterers, wholesalers, restaurants, hotels and event centres.

READ MORE: Challenges abound for food waste solutions

“It is a great honour to receive this recognition, a testament to the importance of the work we are doing at Yume. We thank AFR, Qantas, Sodexo, Korn Ferry and the incredible panel of Judges for increasing awareness that there is a solution for commercial food industry waste in Australia,” said Barfield, founder and CEO, Yume.

Already, Yume – which works with hundreds of leading food manufacturers, such as Kellogg’s and Mondelez and food service giants like Sodexo and Accor Hotels – has sold over 1,200,000kg of quality surplus food, returning $4.5 million to Australian farmers and manufacturers.

In doing so, the award-winning social enterprise – one of only two companies globally using technology to offer an innovative market for surplus food – has saved an estimated 84 million litres of embodied water and prevented 2,442 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released.

Barfield added, “We’re urgently calling on all food manufacturers and primary producers to join Yume, so that we can help prevent this food, which takes time, money and valuable resources to grow, pick, pack and distribute, from going to waste.”

Selected from a record number of nominations from around Australia, this year’s 100 Women of Influence have made a significant impact across 10 categories: arts, culture and sport; board and management; business and entrepreneur; diversity and inclusion; global; innovation; local and regional; public policy; social enterprise and not-for-profit; and young leader.

Michael Stutchbury, editor-in-chief of the Financial Review, says selecting the category winners and overall winner was challenging.

“The calibre of this year’s entrants in the 2019 Women of Influence awards was extremely high, and it was hard enough to choose the top 100.”

The role that resealable packaging plays in minimising food waste

With Australia producing 7.3 million tonnes of food waste across the supply and consumption chain, and a Federal Government National Food Waste Strategy to halve food waste that goes to landfill by 2030, now is the time for packaging technologists to review pack designs that could minimise food waste and losses.

According to the National Food Waste Baseline, which was launched earlier this year, in 2016-17 (the base year) 2.5 million tonnes of food waste (34 per cent) was created in our homes, 2.3 million tonnes (31 per cent) in primary production and 1.8 million tonnes (25 per cent) in the manufacturing sector. Australians recycled 1.2 million tonnes of food waste, recovered 2.9 million tonnes through alternative uses for food waste and disposed of 3.2 million tonnes.

So what role does packaging play in preventing and or minimising food waste? The primary purpose of packaging is to contain, protect, preserve, promote and communicate, handle and transport and provide convenience for a product – all the while ensuring the safe delivery of food to the consumer. Without adequate packaging design features, and fit-for-purpose packaging, food can be wasted all the way through the supply chain to the consumer. By modifying packaging designs and ensuring that Save Food Packaging guidelines are followed, food waste and loss can be minimised.

READ MORE: AIP education director appointed Professor Sichuan Unveristy

As a core participant of the newly-established Fight Food Waste CRC, the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) has been working on producing Save Food Packaging design criteria and communication material for the implementation into food packaging that will lead to better packaging design, material and format selection to assist retail, food service and consumers to minimise and prevent food waste.

Resealable packaging to minimise food waste
An important Save Food Packaging criteria is resealable packaging. Under the umbrella of resealable packaging there are many intuitive technologies including resealable zippers, resealable lidding films, extrudable reseal adhesives, resealable packaging, sliders, resealable zipper tapes and labels, valves and more.

Resealable packaging provides a myriad of benefits including extension of shelf life, reduction in spillages, retention of nutritional value and freshness of product, ingress of flavours, prevention of further product contamination, consumer convenience, controlled dispensing and pouring, allowance for multiple uses of the same pack and easy storage.
Through this packaging design consumers have the ability to retain the product in the original pack and not add additional plastic film, foil, bags or containers to maintain freshness and quality of the product. All of these benefits in turn ensure the prevention of unnecessary food waste and loss.

Reseal versus reclose
When selecting the best resealable technologies, it is important to ensure that the pack can in fact reseal and not simply reclose. There is a difference between intuitive resealable designs that guarantee seal integrity and a closure that could compromise the quality of the product. Choosing the wrong solution can potentially stand in the way of preventing food waste in the household and also damage consumer perceptions of your product.

Undertaking trials
Just like for any other style of packaging, trials need to be undertaken before the resealable packs are commercialised. This is to ensure that the design provides the required freshness, nutritional and food waste objectives for the product. Integrity of seals, freshness, shelf life and barrier, oxygen, contamination, leakage etc can be assessed during trials.

On-pack communication
Developers of the packaging should consider incorporating on-pack communication that explains the key benefits of the resealable option to the consumer. Extension of shelf life, freshness, quality and the ability to minimise food waste in the home are important for consumers. Food manufacturers need to actively engage the consumers in the journey and to explain the important role that packaging plays in minimising food waste,

Balancing 2025 and 2030 targets
Packaging technologists and designers also need to balance the 2025 National Packaging Targets against the 2030 National Food Waste targets when designing resealable packaging. The decision to move to resealable design must also include discussions about the recyclability of the packaging in the country in which the product is sold. Making the decision to move to packaging that minimises food waste, all the while meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets, is the optimum solution and may require undertaking a Lifecycle Assessment to find the sweet spot.

If every food manufacturer made a commitment to incorporate Save Food Packaging guidelines into their packaging development process, then this would be a considerable step in the right direction to minimise and/or prevent food waste in Australia.

OzHarvest targets food waste on World Food Day

Today, on World Food Day, OzHarvest will show Aussies that tackling climate change, starts with your plate!  The social media campaign #countmein aims to inspire individual action and show thatmaking small changes to your own food waste is one of the few personal habits that can actually help restore the planet.

Food waste is often over looked in the climate change debate, but is in fact a major contributor responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gases (more than the aviation sector!) as food left to rot in landfill produces methane—a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Figures recently released from the Federal Government’s National Business Report  reveal Australia is wasting over 7 million tonnes of food each year, which equates to 298kg of food per person,making Australia the world’s fourth highest food waster per capita.

READ MORE: OzHarvest app designed to help fight hunger

OzHarvest Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn AO says people are experiencing ‘eco-anxiety’ as most feel helpless in the battle to protect the planet, but reducing food waste is where we can all make a difference every day.

“The amount of food we waste is hard to visualise as once it goes in the bin it’s out of sight and out of mind, which leads us to think we don’t actually waste that much. 298 kg per person is a staggering amount – the same weight as six adult kangaroos. Urgent action is needed if we are to achieve the national target to halve food waste by 2030.”

“Cutting back on our individual food waste is the single most powerful way we can take direct action against climate change. It’s an easy win, both for your pocket and the planet. So from today, we’ll be asking people to #countmein and share what small changes they will make to reduce their food waste,” said Ronni.

Reducing food waste is ranked as the third most effective solution to reducing global warming by scientists at Project Drawdown. Taking action today could prevent 70 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere in the next 30 years and is one of the most effective ways for individuals to protect our partnership with the planet.

To see what small changes you can make, complete the quiz and share the campaign go to www.fightfoodwaste.org

Cleanaway and Coles team up over waste initiative

A Coles supermarket in Sydney’s west has become the first Australian supermarket to trial zero waste to landfill, as one of several initiatives to help Coles meet its commitment to become Australia’s most sustainable supermarket.

As part of a trial, the supermarket in Wentworth Point is sending zero waste to landfill, preventing the equivalent of 6 ½ shopping trolleys going to landfill each day.

The purpose of the trial is to change in-store processes, put greater focus on source separation, and to partner with new facilities to use waste as a resource. This will mean more packaged and unpackaged food, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass, wax boxes, polystyrene and timber will be diverted from landfill.

Coles Chief Property and Export Officer Thinus Keeve says the trial of a zero waste to landfill store will help Coles find new ways to reduce waste in stores.

“Waste management is a key component of the sustainability of any business and reducing waste is a very important issue for our customers,” said Reeve. “Everyone knows Australia has challenges in how we deal with our waste. That goes for everyone from households sorting their recycling to businesses like Coles. We all have a responsibility to play our part.”

READ MORE: Challenges abound for food waste solutions

The zero waste to landfill trial store will find new ways to recover residual dry waste such as mixed plastic and timber which historically has been the most difficult to divert from landfill.

Coles is partnering with Cleanaway to recover energy from this waste through the Cleanaway ResourceCo Recovery Facility (RRF) in Wetherill Park. The facility uses dry waste to produce Process Engineered Fuel (PEF), which is then used to offset the demands of heavy industry for fossil fuels.

Cleanaway’s Alex Hatherley, Regional Manager, Solid Waste Services NSW, said “This is a great solution for Coles stores that produce high volumes of mixed back-of-house plastics but want to achieve a zero waste to landfill goal.”

“Our facility is unique in its ability to divert commercial dry waste from landfill, recover recyclable materials and then convert the remaining combustibles to a sustainable fuel source, PEF.” Alex explained.

Doug Elliss, General Manager of the Cleanaway ResourceCo Wetherill Park facility said, “We’re playing a key role in Australia’s future sustainable energy mix by reducing waste that would otherwise go to landfill and lowering carbon emissions through production of a commercially viable sustainable fuel.”

The trial comes as Coles Group has released its first Sustainability Report as a stand-alone publicly listed company which sets out Coles commitment to reducing its environmental impact including working towards diverting 90% of waste from landfill by 2022.

“At Coles, we are proud of our partnership with food rescue services Secondbite and Foodbank. Through our supermarkets and distribution centres we donated 12.5 million kilograms of unsold edible food to SecondBite and Foodbank last financial year — the equivalent of 25 million meals for people in need,” Thinus said.

“Many supermarkets also provide food waste directly to farmers to use as animal feed. These stores across our Coles network donated 13.8 million kilograms to farmers last financial year, an increase of 11 per cent.”

“But there is always more that we can do. Everything we can’t give to SecondBite we want to give to farmers to feed their animals, recycle into compost or convert to energy.”

“We were the first Australian supermarket to offer REDcycle plastic recycling in every store. We were the first Australian supermarket to sign a renewable energy PPA, which will see Coles sourcing 10 per cent of its national energy needs from three solar farms in regional NSW.”

“We are now the first Australian supermarket to attempt a zero waste to landfill store. Coles is passionate about driving generational sustainability with innovation that reduces environmental impact.

Challenges abound for food waste solutions

As the world grapples with the waste crisis, a two-day hackathon event has brought together Business and Built Environment students and industry experts to brainstorm ways to combat the issue.

Jointly hosted by UNSW’s Grand Challenges program and food rescue organisation OzHarvest, students tackled the important question: How can we reduce residential food waste in high-density urban environments?

UNSW Built Environment Education-Focused lecturers and event facilitators Eva Lloyd and Dr Alanya Drummond wanted the event to increase awareness of just how much food produced for human consumption globally ends up in landfill. Research shows around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. Half of that waste is generated at home.

“In Australia, we have a national target to halve food waste by 2030,” Dr Drummond said. “To quote OzHarvest’s Fight Food Waste campaign – change is required at all levels of society and it starts with changing our behaviour at home. With relatively low food prices, and constant supply, we have lost our connection to where it comes from, and its true value.”

Over the two days, 35 students from six teams heard from more than 50 speakers and mentors representing fields as diverse as recycling technologies, high-density architecture, social entrepreneurship, Indigenous food management systems, behaviour change and strata law.

Mayor of North Sydney Jilly Gibson and Gardening Australia’s Costa Georgiadis and Clarence Slockee inspired students to approach the challenge from multiple perspectives. Humanitarian response expert Professor David Sanderson and founder of the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT) Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla were other leaders.

READ MORE: Pastry producer keen to fight food waste with OzHarvest

“We need to connect people back to the food that they eat,” Mayor Gibson told the group. “Community gardens are growing at a rapid rate and I feel if people grow their own delicious fresh food, they are not going to waste it. In my mind, if we can make people love fresh food, and be aware of where that food has come from, there will be less waste.”

Solutions with a community focus
The students’ solutions identified four major behaviours to reduce food waste: look, buy, store, cook. Dr Drummond and Ms Lloyd were impressed that the solutions focused as much on community connection as they did on reducing food waste.

“The 35 students across the six teams developed solutions that ranged from a high-tech ‘smart’ garbage chute to sort organics from recyclables, to a mobile neighbourhood kitchen where you can learn recipes from elders,” said Ms Lloyd.

The winning team – Community Pantry – took home the $2000 prize for their method of storing and reusing food within high-rise residential towers.

“Community Pantry’s method involved a range of shared storage spaces on each floor to minimise wastage when your dry goods sit unused for long periods of time, coupled with rooftop community gardens for growing fresh fruit and veg, plus a series of market day events where neighbours could swap gossip and fridge goodies to create a meal for the block.”

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Students from UNSW Built Environment and the UNSW Business School participated in the UNSW OzHarvest Hackathon to tackle the world’s waste crisis.

Change on a large scale
The student proposals will contribute to the next stage of the OzHarvest Fight Food Campaign.

OzHarvest NSW State Manager Richard Watson told the students: “OzHarvest really values your ideas. I will be taking them back to the management team because fighting food waste in the home really is the next port of call for OzHarvest. We have done a lot of work fighting food waste in the commercial world, but half of the food wasted is from our homes and we are really keen to tackle that issue. I know we will be pulling ideas from all of the proposals and presenting them forward to the team.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the OzHarvest Grand Challenge was reflected in the hackathon’s steering team that spanned UNSW Built Environment, UNSW Business and UNSW Grand Challenges. The team exemplified collaboration and offered students diverse and innovative interdisciplinary learning experiences.

“In their teams, students were asked to consider their behavioural strengths and weaknesses, rather than just their disciplinary knowledge,” Built Environment lecturer Eva Lloyd said. To foster this, “students adopted ‘hack hats’, including roles such as ‘the nitty gritty’ who focused on detailed forecasting or ‘the left field’ who threw unexpected ideas into brainstorming sessions. This meant their ideas were multidimensional in strategy and more far-reaching in impact.

“The concept of the hackathon itself as well as the behavioural ‘hack hats’ and a ‘live research’ forum are pedagogical methodologies we are researching and testing.”

UNSW plans to run another OzHarvest Grand Challenge hackathon next year similarly focused on reducing residential food waste, as part of the Grand Challenge on Rapid Urbanisation. The Grand Challenges program was established to facilitate critical discussion on the biggest issues facing humanity.

Frozen foods can help reduce waste

Over one billion tons of food is wasted every year. The Food and Agriculture Organization also estimates that in developing countries, up to 40 per cent of total food produced can be lost before it even reaches market. As such, implementing methods of safely storing and transporting food is crucial for being able to continue to feed the planet. Here, Darcy Simonis,  food and beverage group vice president at ABB, explains how frozen food can help reduce food waste.

Food and beverage manufacturers understand that they must reduce food waste to improve profitability and their environmental impact. Freezing is a simple way to preserve food for long periods of time, particularly as food can be frozen either directly at the source or once it has gone through processing. This flexibility to preserve perishable food at the source is crucial across the globe. For example, in developing countries it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of root crops, fruits and vegetables are wasted due to improper transport and storage.

However, this is not to say that producing frozen food is simple. There are many different and complex processes that must work together to deliver frozen food to the consumer market. For example, freezing, storing and maintaining temperature during transportation all require specialist technology to properly maintain the product and ensure that it is kept safe for consumption.

Freezing methods
Freezing is a well-established food preservation method. However, it is a delicate task. If large ice crystal form within the products cells it can easily destroy the cellular membrane of the product, which can not only alter the thawed products taste but can potentially make it unsafe for consumption.

There are three main freezing methods; air blast, contact and immersion freezing. Each of these methods has a number of additional variants to cater for specific food types or cellular structures, which can affect the ability to freeze and subsequently thaw food correctly.

Air blast freezing works by passing products through below-freezing air flows. Since air blast can freeze products on the move, this method benefits rolling production. Contact freezing is when products are placed between two metal plates with internal cooling systems. This method is three times faster than air blast but is only suitable for products with two flat surfaces, such as prepackaged items.

Immersion freezing requires products to be immersed or sprayed with liquid refrigerant. There are a variety of different refrigerant liquids available, however, the most common are liquid nitrogen or a mixture of ethanol and dry ice.

Regardless of the method, freezer components must be tough to cope with the drastic temperature shifts between their insides and outsides. Furthermore, to keep up with hygiene requirements in the food industry, freezers must be regularly and thoroughly cleaned. This can mean that certain parts, such as paint, can corrode which could contaminate the food products.

For this reason, at ABB we provide motors that have been designed from the ground up to only include unpainted components. These motors are made for use in freezer applications where the rapid changes in temperature — from 25 degrees to minus 30 degrees Celsius — and humidity from 0–50 per cent, can lead to flaking and chipping on painted motors.

Cold supply chains
Cold supply chains are the leading modern method for transporting items that must be kept at a constant cold temperature. In a cold supply chain, every part of storage and transportation is temperature controlled to stop products from decaying. Food products can be very sensitive to temperature fluctuations, with sudden changes often leading to premature spoilage.

In fact, research demonstrates that there are several key variable factors in the food spoilage process: pH, water activity, salt content, gas composition, pressure, humidity and temperature. Of these, temperature is the main instigator, as when a product is stored above its individual temperature limit it can encounter rapid bacteria growth, which accelerates decay.

Modern food supply chains are also long, meaning that keeping produce at a constant temperature is vital. However, due to the rigorous standards that implementing a cold supply chain requires, not everyone is able to use them. This is because the window of temperatures at which products must be kept is very narrow, so any deviation and the produce will be deemed unsafe and rejected. As such, the cold system must be able to be monitored and controlled from start to finish.

Therefore, paper controls and monitoring cannot keep up with the precision needed for cold food supply chains, because they can only register an average temperature. Accurately controlling the temperature inside cold storage requires a smart system, because multiple sensors can record and analyze a constant temperature.

For example, imagine a refrigerated container being kept at minus eight degrees Celsius to store frozen fruit. If one of the cooling systems was to malfunction, a paper-based system would only register a slight anomaly in temperature variation. A smart sensor-based system would be able to identify exactly which cooling system was malfunctioning and directly identify the affected packages as well as alert maintenance and monitoring teams.

ABB’s ControlMaster range offers a choice of communications options. Ethernet communications provide the ability for users to be automatically notified of critical process events via email. The systems also allow for remote monitoring through the ControlMaster’s integrated webserver, or by simply using a standard web browser.

Overall, freezing is an extremely flexible method of preventing food waste. It can cater for all types of food and, though intricate, the tools for implementing cold supply chains are prevalent and widely accessible.

As food consumption and the global population continue to grow, food waste must be reduced. One easy method of achieving this is extending the life span of the products on the market. Freezing food is a well-developed technique that can reduce food waste in all parts of the food chain and hopefully, the one billion tons of food wasted every year will be reduced.

Food date confusion and traceability

The leading cause of food waste is confusion over what the date labels on products actually mean. A national survey reported that 84 per cent of Americans waste food based on the date label.

Mislead by labels
Each year, millions of dollars are lost, and thousands of tonnes of food is wasted. Common reasons for this waste include damaged produce, it doesn’t meet supplier standards or even that demand is low.

The main reason for disposal of safe to eat food is due to misleading date labels.

The most recognised food date labels are “best before” and “use-by”. A “best before” label indicates that if a product is eaten after the recommended “best before” date, the quality will not be at its best, but it is still safe to eat. However, it’s commonly misinterpreted that the food is no longer safe to eat.

A “use by” date on a product is a safety risk and meat, fish and dairy products should all be eaten on or before the specified date. However, labels like “expiry”, “sell by” and “display until” add confusion, despite not affecting the consumer, only the outlet selling the product for stock control purposes.

Traceability to tackle waste
With millions of pounds worth of perfectly edible food filling landfills, a solution needs to be found. Perhaps one of the simplest is to standardize food date labels across all supermarkets and retail stores. The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has approved a Call to Action in an appeal to standardise food date labels worldwide by 2020, with the aim to half food waste by 2030.

In the meantime, a way that food manufacturers can help to reduce the cause of food waste, could be to implement traceability software.

Traceability allows manufacturers to track and record data of food produce through all stages of production, processing and distribution to the consumer, which could influence how much safe to eat food is wasted.

In recent years, the concept of “farm to fork” has become increasingly popular, with more people interested in where their food comes from. If consumers could trace how long ago and where their meat was slaughtered, packaged and distributed, or if they could see what date their milk was produced and which farm it came from, they may reconsider throwing away food that is safe to eat, reducing waste.

ABB offer traceability software such as Manufacturing Operations Management suite (MOM), which creates a digital trace of a product by integrating all features into a database.

For example, farmers could log all information of their livestock into a central system, including identification number, the age of the animal, what date it was slaughtered or milked, the date of packaging and where it has been distributed. A QR (quick response) code or barcode storing the information could be printed out and applied to the packaging. Once the product is on supermarket shelves, consumers can scan the code to view the product data.

It’s vital that food manufacturers support the reduction of food waste and should be compliant with the ISO 22005:2007 traceability standard as a minimum.

Standardised date labels and traceability will educate the consumer with more knowledge regarding a products journey and process, meaning that consumers have more information at hand in order to make an informed decision when it comes to wasting food.

 

Incorporating circular economy not as easy as it seems

APCO is what is called a co-regulatory body, whose role it is to administer the Australian Packaging Covenant.

“The Australian Packaging Covenant is a regulatory framework that sits under the National Environmental Protection Measure for used packaging. It is very firmly a co-regulatory body,” said Donnelly at a speech she gave at AUSPACK 2019 in Melbourne. “If you think about product stewardship, there are a couple of ways in which you can do that. You can do it in a voluntary sense, which is the industry getting together and deciding to do something. You can do it in a co-regulatory sense, which is industry and government getting together to do something, or you can do it in a mandatory sense, which is the government telling the industry what to do. We’re in what I like to think is the nice place in the middle, where we’re working together and we’ve got a framework to work to.”

The covenant has been going for 20 years, and every five years a new strategic plan is put in place that is agreed between industry and government together. In 2016, both industry and government got together to begin looking at a new approach. The covenant had been around for quite some time and it was struggling to find a way to deliver effectively to industry and government on the packaging changes that needed to happen. Government and industry looked at what model could be applied – looking particularly at the circular economy.

“We had a mandate in the 2017 strategic plan to deliver the sustainable packaging pathways in Australia through a circular economy model, which is no small feat,” said Donnelly. “It’s wonderful to talk about circular economy conceptually, but it is quite difficult to deliver in an operational sense, because it does require a complete transformation of the entire packaging ecosystem. That requires a level of collaboration and is driven through a collective impact model, which is all about shared value. If one of us doesn’t get there, none of us get there – that means you’ve got to take everybody on that journey with you. When you have 1,500 organisations and eight different governments (including states, territories and federal), that’s quite the challenge. So a co-regulatory body has a big task in terms of bringing stakeholders along the journey and getting everybody to where they need to be to be effective in this space.”

They focussed on four key areas. One is helping with the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines (SPG), which APCO has reviewed, with the end result being a new version of the SPG due out at the end of 2019. They are also at the forefront of providing a prep tool, which is a packaging recyclability portal, that is available to all APCO members, giving them the ability to actually know that they are designing packaging that has the ability to be recycled.
The second area APCO focussed on helping businesses identify and develop operational systems required for this work. Some of the key resources in this area are about strategic partnerships – bringing together organisations that otherwise would have no alignment with each other, other than that they have a similar end of life material.

“For example, we have 1,500 organisations that represent 153 different ANSZIC codes,” she said. “And if you can end up with an airline, a homewares company, a retailer and a pharmaceutical who, in any other sense, would probably not be having conversations – but who all have a similar material that they may need to deal with at end of life – that gives you the ability, in terms of looking at programs and options going forward, of scaling up material volumes and models that previously may not have been economically or operationally viable. That is because the limited scope of the material available can actually be scaled up on that collective impact model.”

The third area is education. The Australasian Recycling Label is the flagship piece of work for APCO in terms of helping industry and governments to communicate with consumers/communities about packaging and how to deal with packaging at end of life.
Finally, the fourth area is about material circularity. There’s no point recycling a piece of packaging unless it has a home to go to that has a value, said Donnelly. Material circularity is about dealing with the end market and creating a sustainable ecosystem for post-consumer recyclables.

Donnelly also touched on China’s national sword policy that reduced the amount of impurities it would allow in recycled materials coming from countries like Australia. And this, said Donnelly, is where Australian food, beverage and other industries that rely on packaging need a change in mindset.

China’s new policy saw the value of recycled materials drop through the floor. What this did was highlight the economic impact of the decision within Australia and whether it was palatable to have that level of risk on the global market for a commodity item such as waste.

“After much conversation among industry and government, it became obvious that that level of risk was not palatable,” said Donnelly. “So what’s our alternative? Our alternative is that we must create a domestic market and domestic opportunities for those materials to be used. Here there is a big transformation that’s required. APCO did a report that is available on our website, and that was completed around the time the China national sword policy was announced. That was one of the key things that really drove the need to do something different to what we’ve been doing traditionally. That coupled with the sustainable development goals and consumers’ greater awareness coming from things like ‘The War on Waste’, really drove a need to take a very different approach.”

In April 2018, APCO met with the state and federal environment ministers to discuss how APCO could support the response to these issues. Initially, the organisation went through a series of ways it could do that and it also tried to look how it could reach a target that could enable it to have something for companies to work towards.

“It was at that point that the 100 per cent target with regard to packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 was endorsed by every government in Australia, including federal,” said Donnelly. “We then went away and, in coordination with industry and government, we sat down and spent about six months working through what other targets and what other areas needed to be addressed to support such an audacious target. There were a range of targets that were discussed, but the consensus and the agreement in the end was around three other sub-targets that support that 100 per cent target. We talked about 70 per cent of plastic packaging being recycled or composted.”

Another target was 30 per cent average recycled content across all packaging.

“This is very much about driving the pull,” she said. “We need a pull in the market to give a home to these materials, and there’s no home if the home doesn’t have a value. Looking at recycled content is about understanding how we can get recycled content into certain material. And this is not a ‘purist version’ of bottle to bottle, this is about finding a home for materials that can be recycled across a range of activities. This conversation is very open about what the solution can be.

“You’ll note that the target is an average recycled content, and that is because recycled content can’t go into all packaging. There are some things that it can’t go into and that is really challenging – things like pharmaceuticals, some food products – and if you’re looking at a 30 per cent recycled content target, really the focus area is about looking, initially, at your tertiary packaging and your secondary packaging. And primary packaging is something that we can look at, but not where we would be suggesting to start from a strategic viewpoint.”

The final target APCO mentioned was phasing out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through re-design, innovation or alternative delivery methods.

“This is a big, contentious area,” said Donnelly. “This is the whole space where people are talking about plastic-free and all these kinds of things. What’s bubbling up from this is a need to recognise that there are some packaging materials where we just shouldn’t use single-use plastics. But here’s the thing – if you’re not going to do that, you need to have a plan on what your alternative is. There’s no point in banning straws or balloons, and that’s what we’ve seen recently. Some councils have come out and banned things like straws and then they’ve had an issue with the disability sector, where some people need straws to consume food. We need to be working through alternative models and planned pathway for transitioning away from these materials.

“It’s not that you shouldn’t transition away from things. There are going to be some materials that are just simply too hard to recover, or not recoverable, which we can use alternative materials for, but we need to do the work and planning for what those things will be, and for that transition pathway.

“You’ll see some news pieces around people and certain industry sectors pushing back and saying we should mandate recycled content. Well, we’ve got to agree on what recycled content is first. In this space right now, we are in a very big transition and it’s a transition that needs to be done in a considered way. It is about making sure that we have the best possible outputs and outcomes in a considered way so that we don’t drive perverse outcomes.”

Woolworths reaches major milestone in fight against food waste

In a bid to tackle the $20 billion food waste problem in Australia and its commitment to reduce food waste from going to landfill, Woolworths has announced that 100 per cent of its supermarkets now have an active food waste diversion program in place.

From rescuing surplus fresh food and distributing it to hunger relief charity partners, donating stock feed to farmers or sending it for commercial organic composting, all Woolworths supermarkets nationwide now have at least one active food waste diversion partner in place.

With these programs in place,  Woolworths has recorded an average year-on-year reduction of 8 per cent in food waste sent to landfill over the past three years.

Woolworths Head of Sustainability, Adrian Cullen said; “Food is meant to be eaten, not thrown – which is why together with our customers, our farmers and our community partners, we’re working to keep good food out of landfill.

“This is not a new journey for us – we’ve been working hard at this for the last decade and we are excited to hit a milestone ahead of World Environment Day that 100% of our stores now with a food waste diversion program in place.

“We heavily invested in our team members to ensure that they have the education, training, resources and equipment to better identify and divert surplus food that can no longer be sold away from landfill and toward the most beneficial stream – be it food rescue for hunger relief, farmer donations for animal feed or commercial composting.

In the last year, Woolworths has diverted from landfill over 55,000 tonnes of food and enabled over 10 million meals to be delivered to Australians in need across the country.

Adrian Cullen said; “Working with our partners OzHarvest, Foodbank and Fareshare to feed Australian’s who would otherwise go hungry is our number one priority when it comes to diverting food from our stores.

“We then work with local farmers so that surplus food, which cannot go to hunger relief, is used as stock feed for animals or for on-farm composting. This helps us further reduce and re-purpose bakery and produce waste.”

Currently, over 750 farmers and community groups from around the country have joined the Woolworths Stock Feed for Farmers program and last year Australian farmers received more than 32,000 tonnes of surplus food from Woolworths that is no longer fit for human consumption.

Rochelle Penney, owner of Tasmania Zoo, has been part of the Woolworths Stock Feed for Farmers program since the Zoo opened its doors 15 years ago.

Rochelle said; “Our team collects several bins of unsold surplus fruit, vegetables and bakery products that are no longer suitable for sale, every day from our local Woolworths stores to supplement feed for our animals.

With over 100 different species of animals, all with variable nutritional needs, the support we receive from Woolies through the Stock Feed for Farmers program is invaluable.

“The program is enriching the lives of our animals and providing them the experience to taste a wide variety of produce.

“Importantly, the savings we make through the program enable us to continue our important conservation and education work which includes breeding programs and caring for a number of critically endangered native and exotic species.”

AIP Members pack 2175kgs of potatoes and carrots for KiwHarvest

As a part of the Australian Institute of Packaging’s commitment to Fighting Food Waste two teams of Members headed to KiwiHarvest in Auckland, NZ over the last month to help pack 2175 kgs of potatoes and carrots into approx. 145x 15kg bags. The bags KiwiHarvest use are the malt bags from boutique breweries which saves them from going to waste as well.

The recipients who receive the potatoes and carrots are all over Auckland from Orewa in the North to Pukekohe in the South. The completed bags are given to foodbanks to distribute to individual families, used for community meals such as Everybody Eats, charities like Shine Womens Refuge, schools.

So who are KiwiHarvest?
KiwiHarvest are New Zealand’s perishable food rescuers; collecting good food before it goes to waste and distributing it to those in need to nourish the wider community. Every month they deliver over 60,000 kgs of food to 220 charities nationally. Their work is already changing the fact that 103,000 tonnes of food is thrown away by New Zealand industry every year. KiwiHarvest is here to create lasting positive change so that good food does not go to waste. Moreover, those that need nourishment will receive it. KiwiHarvest reduces the negative impacts of food waste on our environment by redistributing excess food; helping to create lasting positive social change by nourishing those in need.

So how can AIP Members and industry colleagues help KiwiHarvest?
Join our AIP KiwiHarvest Volunteer Program; either as an individual, with your staff and colleagues, or even with your families. The AIP will work directly with KiwiHarvest to book in some days where our volunteers can visit the Ellerslie Warehouse and help pick and pack fresh vegetables into sacks. The day will start with a formal introduction on how KiwiHarvest works and information on their charity partners. The AIP will be offering more volunteer days throughout the year for NZ industry.

Expertise key with new kitchen facility for the needy

Project delivery specialist Wiley doesn’t only share its knowledge when it comes to building functional, state-of-the-art food processing factories, it also uses its expertise to help with more altruistic endeavours. Its project with FareShare is an example of how Wiley helps those that are helping others in need.

FareShare is a not-for-profit organisation that “rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and cooks it into free nutritious meals for people in need. Around four million Australians experience food insecurity each year while as much as $20 billion worth of food is wasted”.

Foodbank also works with the Australian food and grocery industry including farmers, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers. Donations include stock items that are out of specification, close to their expiry date, or are in excess.

In late 2016, FareShare was approached by Foodbank Australia to establish a high-volume kitchen facility in Brisbane so that surplus meat and vegetables in the state could be saved from landfill, cooked, frozen and redirected to those in need. With research showing that over 400,000 Queenslanders experienced food insecurity last year, 50 per cent of them children, it was deemed imperative that a kitchen was established as soon as practical.

FareShare bought a brownfield site in Queensland to build the new kitchen facility within an existing warehouse. The new building footprint was to be in the order of 900 m² and the existing offices and warehouse space was retained. It included two kitchens linked by shared services, cool room and freezers, reception, locker room, function room, tea room, male/female/accessible toilets, laundry and basic storage. The balance of the area was open space. As funds were tight, construction was to be basic, yet robust. It was envisaged that most of the building would comprise insulated cool-room panelling.

“Wiley met FareShare at an industry conference and provided high level advice to us on the selection of the premises, design and food systems advice,” said Kellie Watson, FareShare’s Queensland director. “We were also able to use Wiley’s experience and knowledge to assist us with the delivery of this project. I used their Brisbane office as my office for the first few months too.

The facility consists of two ovens, two 300-litre kettles and three blast chillers. When in use, the kitchen can make one million meals per year. With the addition of evening and weekend shifts, the kitchen would be able to produce two million meals.

With the ability to serve up to that many meals annually, are there any plans for FareShare to expand the facilities capabilities?

“It depends on the need in the community,” said Watson. “We’d like to say ‘no’ but current trends indicate that the need for food relief is increasing each year. The building was designed to be able to increase production if the need in Queensland increases and the raw ingredients are available.

“We have built in [the] capacity for equipment upgrades, installed a grease trap of a size that can grow with us, and we have done preliminary work so that we can easily increase the size of the freezers. For example, we have prepped the floor and built a second multi-purpose area that is currently operating as a dry store. To bring it online as a freezer, we just need to add the plant equipment. With the floor area that we have, we can accommodate twice as many volunteers as we currently have.”

Building at a brownfield site had its own challenges, but nothing that got in the way of what Wiley needed to do to help finish the job.

“The biggest challenge for Wiley and FareShare was building within an existing structure on the brownfield site and ensuring the building structure had sufficient strength to support the new infrastructure,” said Wiley project engineer Lauren Elliss. “Another challenge was that the site was located close to the Brisbane river, which meant we had tidal water challenges to solve.”

The build took from January to October 2018 but Wiley was involved with FareShare for some time before that, helping with site selection and feasibility, as well as helping to source suppliers and subcontractors. It was important that those helping with the build were willing to work at cost or discounted rates to help FareShare achieve its budget and time constraints.

And what were some of the learnings from the build? “It was more our ability to work collaboratively with our subcontractors and extended team that made this manageable,” said Elliss. “Transparency is the key. Everyone was contributing to the cause to get FareShare up and running to feed Queensland’s hungry.”

Elliss said the building could not have been completed under budget and on time without the help of ASKIN, Cool Times Industries, D&F Plumbing, PowerMe, REFPRO and WMA.

Aussies throw away almost $9 billion in food annually

 The Rabobank Food Waste Report found that Aussies have significantly reduced the food they waste year on year by $700 million! The research revealed a 7 per cent reduction from $9.6bn in 2017 to $8.9bn in 2018, equating to a back pocket saving of $160 per household a year.

While three quarters of Australians care about reducing waste, there’s still work to be done with Australians wasting a collective $8.9 billion on food in 2018, a total of $890 per household.

The Rabobank Food Waste Report, is part of the bank’s annual Financial Health Barometer (FHB), an annual survey of 2,300 financial decision makers aged between 18-65 polling attitudes towards savings and debt.

Generationally, Baby Boomers remain the least wasteful of all Australians, throwing out only $430 (7 per cent) of their food. Baby Boomers are also the generation more likely to be annoyed by their own (87 per cent) and others’ food waste (85 per cent) and care the most about reducing waste (85 per cent).

It seems that those under 36, the Millennials, are the repeat offenders when it comes to food waste and practicing bad habits. Gen Z and Gen Y are still the biggest dollar value wasters, binning in excess of $1,200 in 2018.

This is despite the fact that Gen Y and Gen Z are significantly more willing than their older counterparts to pay extra for food that is produced in environmentally-sustainable ways and is humane or organic.

The State of affairs
While the research found there was a small difference between city dwellers (13 per cent) and their rural counterparts (11 per cent) waste levels, rivalry between states and territories continues.

Queenslanders were the only state whose food waste behaviour has regressed, with the research revealing they wasted an extra $43 a year on year.

Per capita percentage, West Australians and people in New South Wales were the worst culprits wasting 12 per cent of their grocery shop, while people in the Northern Territory and Tasmania were the least wasteful only throwing away 9 per cent of their shop.

Victorians made the biggest improvement, reducing their food waste year on year by 5.5 per cent, totalling almost $300 a year per household!

“The Rabobank Food Waste Report shows us that the tide is turning in Australia when it comes to food waste and attitudes are translating into actions, with a total $700 million reduction to our food waste bill in one year! The results are encouraging however it is key that Australian households focus on reducing waste even further, while also saving money for their families,” says Glenn Wealands, Head of Client Experience, Rabobank Australia and New Zealand.

Online Convenience creating a new food waste challenge
New food delivery trends are increasing food waste, with those who shop for groceries online and those who use food delivery services wasting significantly more food than those not using these services.

  • ‘On demand’ food delivery services are linked to food waste, with those who use food delivery services wasting 15.2 per cent of their food compared to 8.4 per cent among those who do not.
  • Those who online grocery shop, are also more likely to waste food. For example, people who do at least 20 per cent of their grocery shopping on line waste 19 per cent of the food they buy.

What we can do to win the War on Waste
The main culprit for food waste is food going off before it can be finished (75 per cent), while 45 per cent of us are simply buying too much during our weekly shop and 34 per cent admit they waste food because of insufficient meal planning. Lastly, 41 per cent of people with kids at home, said food was wasted because their kids didn’t eat the food that was prepared for them.

Many Australians are already actively embracing better habits at home that are helping to reduce their food waste including:

  • 50 per cent use a shopping list when buying groceries
  • 38 per cent eating leftovers
  • 36 per cent planning meals in advance
  • 30 per cent freezing food

More than a third of all food produced globally never even reaches the dining table, as it is either spoiled in transit or thrown out by consumers*. This results in one third of the world’s agricultural land being used to produce food that is subsequently not eaten. The resources like water, fuel and fertilizers used to grow that food are also wasted.

 

“As our population increases we will struggle to feed additional mouths. If we don’t curb our waste, we could run out by 2050. While the reduction in food waste is a global responsibility, we all – as individual consumers – can play a significant role in sustaining this planet for generations to come.

 

“While is it pleasing that Australians consumers are wasting less food compared to 12 months ago, there is clearly much to do to raise awareness about food production and waste and more urgently implement better practices to reduce waste – while also improving the finances of all Australians.

 

“At Rabobank, we are passionate about building awareness of this issue and helping Aussies understand the role they can play in contributing to the future sustainability of our food,” Mr Wealands said.

 

The full results were released at Rabobank’s Farm2Fork Summit, alongside the launch of Rabobank’s Food Truck – an interactive, multi-purpose vehicle which will tour the country throughout the year, bringing better food sustainability knowledge to Australia.

Packaging’s role in halving food waste by 2030

With Australian consumers throwing away around 3.1 million tonnes of edible food a year, and another 2.2 million tonnes disposed of by the commercial and industrial sector, along with a Federal Government National Food Waste Strategy to halve food waste that goes to landfill by 2030, it is time that everyone contributes to solving this issue.

As a part of the AIP’s commitment to minimising food waste, the Institute has a representative on the Department of the Environment and Energy National Food Waste Steering Committee. It is also a participant in the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre is a member of both the Save Food Initiative and of Friends of 12.3, as well as an active World Packaging Organisation Member in the Save Food Pavilion at Interpack.
The AIP is a long-standing supporter of Foodbank Australia, running an annual Christmas Hamper Packing Program in Queensland and recently introducing a warehouse packing day in Victoria for the wider industry.

The Institute is focused on education and training programs that can assist with minimising food waste and loss globally.

The AIP has developed training courses and awards programs that are focused on:
• The role of packaging in minimising food waste
• Save Food Packaging design
• Sustainable packaging design
• The role of lifecycle analysis in packaging design
The AIP has also been working on key criteria and guidelines for packaging technologists and designers to use as the standard for Save Food Packaging design.
Long-term objectives of the AIP are to:
• Encourage all packaging technologists and designers to use Save Food Packaging key criteria and guidelines across the globe. The key criteria includes “re-sealability, openability, improvement of barrier packaging and extension of shelf-life, portion control, better understanding of Best Before vs Use By dates; improved design to reduce warehouse and transport damages and losses; better use of active and intelligent packaging; and lifecycle assessments”.
• Ensure that all packaging technologists and designers are utilising lifecyle analysis tools within their Save Food Packaging framework. Today, there is a strong focus on the environmental aspects of food packaging to ensure that at the end of its life (after use of the product contained) that it can be reused, repurposed, recycled or composted.
• Encourage manufacturers to actively engage in designing innovative Save Food Packaging and communicating these initiatives to their customers and consumers.
• Recognise a range of Save Food Packaging innovations through the Packaging Innovation & Design (PIDA) Awards and the international WorldStar Packaging Award program.
• Showcase best practice award-winning save food packaging innovations across Australia and New Zealand.
• Contribute to consumer education and engagement projects to change the narrative around packaging’s roles in minimising food waste. Consumer education is needed to help them better understand the true role of food packaging: “protection, preservation and promotion of product, shelf-life extension, tamper resistance, barrier from external elements all the while ensuring safe delivery of food.”

The National Food Waste Strategy and the establishment of the Fight Food Waste CRC have for the first time enabled the bringing together of a range of like-minded industry professionals who are working collaboratively across the entire supply chain for a common goal: “Halving Food Waste by 2030”. Every business has a role to play.

Has your business developed a Fight Food Waste Strategy? Are you designing any Save Food Packaging? If so, what criteria are your packaging technologists using?

Are you ensuring that LCA is incorporated in your design tools? Have you enrolled your packaging technologists in the new training course, The Role of Packaging in Minimising Food Waste?

Compostable packaging and data management solutions feature at waste expo

Food industry professionals had a chance to share ideas on data management solutions and sustainable packaging at the Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo (AWRE).

The expo, held on the 29th and 30th of August, aimed to challenge thinking about current waste standards and the future of waste disposal and recovery.

Exhibitors included companies that work with the food and beverage industry, such as ifm Efector, Source Separation Systems and DB Packaging.

Joshua Riley, from Source Separation Systems, showcased the company’s composting products.

READ: App takes bite out of food waste

The Kitchen Caddy is a container that houses compostable household waste, which can then be disposed of in a compost system or suitable council bins. The company also made a range of liners derived from corn that wasn’t fit for human consumption, Riley said.

“All the liners are Australian Certified compostable,” he said.

The liners left no plastic bits in the soil, like some biodegradable products did, he said. The ink used on the liners is soy based and also not toxic to the environment.

Riley said it was difficult getting people to change the way they thought about waste.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s not hard, but the challenge we face is that people don’t like change. Once you get their mind changed, it’s easy,” said Riley.

Rachel Beaver, educator and trainer at DB Packaging, also said people needed to change their mindsets.

DB Packaging makes compostable plates and bowls, and compostable transparent bags.

Many people used cling wrap to showcase the contents of a product, but there were other materials available, said Beaver.

“We don’t need cling wrap. We need to get people to change their minds,” she said.

“We are starting to work with different bodies to change consumers’ perceptions. Everyone has to be involved,” said Beaver.

Companies behind making products such as compostable containers and machinery used to deal with waste were also at the expo.

Ifm senior sales engineer Jason Woo said ifm provided mobile controls for hydraulic systems used by companies to lift bins and used for crushers, for example.

“The target market would be the machine builders for rubbish trucks,” he said.

Ifm also has a range of sensors that help with data management.

With effective data management people can see in real-time when machines need maintenance or when they are working overtime.

“It also monitors consumption so consumers can see what they are using too much of,” said Woo.

Being able to monitor machines easily, could help businesses save energy and save on costs, he said.

Everything waste-related was covered at the expo to materials, machinery and data solutions. The expo was held at the International Convention Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

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