By examining the current status around food packaging and innovation related to sustainability, this session aims to propose how we can better interface with agri-food systems to unlock trapped sustainability.
We need to ensure that sustainability expands beyond the bounds of engineering a solution on the backend, and incorporates the efforts made throughout the entire supply chain to reduce our carbon footprint. Think of a large storybook as an analogy for sustainability. Often, we simply flip to the middle of the book and pick a page, in this case the engineering option for a particular material or package. Many times, we neglect to gather the data from the total supply chain, the pages before and after that capture a very important part of the story.
Most manufacturers have implemented energy-, water-, and waste-saving programs to protect the environment and enhance their operations. This is all usable in a sustainability statement made by a brand. Additionally, there are some inherent eco-friendly statements that can be made about different conventional materials selected by brand owners. There are also different choices for how waste is handled. Finally, recycling, composting, biodegradation, and upcycling all have potential.
Critical to solving waste issues is ensuring that we are focused on the right offender. Food waste is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases. Food is disposed of in a landfill, and it rots and becomes a significant source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Packaging is intended to protect food and extend its usable life. We need to be careful to select the right options when making choices about packaging. Sometimes, conventional materials are the best method to avoiding unwanted food waste. There are alternative waste stream management systems available, such as TerraCycle, to address conventional materials. They are also part of the storybook referenced earlier.