Packaging can help reduce food waste, says WRAP

5 March 2013

By Amy North

Getting consumers to change their attitudes and behaviours towards packaging could help to reduce household food waste, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme.

Recognition of the role of packaging comes in a WRAP study published today (March 5). It found that £6.7 billion worth of food is thrown away every year because it is not used in time and that by making better use of the packaging the food could last longer.

WRAP said packaging plays an important role in reducing food waste
WRAP said packaging plays an important role in reducing food waste

The research found that consumers do not realise the important role packaging plays in helping to reduce food waste and keep food fresher for longer, particularly once the product is in the home. According to the report, there is recognition that packaging protects the food on its way to and in the store, only 13% of consumers believe it can play the same role in the home.

The study, ‘Consumer attitudes to food waste and food packaging’, was produced in partnership with the packaging industry, councils and retailers. The study is also being seen as particularly significant in terms of lobbying by the packaging sector because in recent years the sector has been fighting hard to defend packaging’s role in protecting goods in the face of continual criticism that products are overpackaged.

The report warned that despite continued innovation in packaging, most consumers still believe that keeping food in packaging at home leads to it spoiling quicker. The report highlighted that consumers feel confident about how they store food at home however this confidence may be misplaced with only 22% of consumers looking at storage guidance on packaging.

The research concludes that how long the food stays fresh for is a priority for consumers however it shows they are not making best use of the information on the pack.

The research was produced in partnership with:

  • INCPEN
  • Packaging Federation
  • Food and Drink Federation
  • Kent Waste Partnership
  • British Retail Consortium

Commenting on the report, Richard Swannell, director of design and waste prevention at WRAP, said: “Food waste is an enormous problem that needs tackling throughout the whole supply chain. With 7.2mt of waste occurring in the home, our latest report has investigated consumer awareness around packaging, and how storing food effectively can help reduce that waste. By working with companies and industry bodies, we can help consumers to take advantage of recent innovations and keep food fresher for longer.”

Fresher for longer

A communications campaign was launched alongside the report, which will see retailers, brand-owners and councils use visual aids and messages to demonstrate the important role packaging can play in reducing food waste.

In a bid to convey the findings to consumers and get retailers on board a ‘Fresher for longer’ initiative has been launched. The communications campaign will see retailers, brands and councils gain access to materials to promote the message that packaging keeps food fresher for longer and helps to protect it in the home.

The campaign was launched by its exclusive retail partner Marks & Spencer at its Tunbridge Wells store with the support of the Kent Waste Partnership.

Speaking at the launch, Adam Elman, head of Plan A Delivery at Marks & Spencer, said: “By reducing the amount of packaging we use and ensuring its easily recyclable, we’ve worked hard to make it as easy as possible for our customers to live more sustainably. Packaging plays an important role in protecting the quality and freshness of our food, which is why we feature on-pack storage advice and continue to introduce innovative packaging that keeps food fresher for longer.”

PAFA

The move has been welcomed by the Packaging and Films Association (PAFA) which said all retailers should adopt the ‘Fresher for longer’ campaign.

Commenting on the report, Barry Turner, chief executive of PAFA, said: “This research reinforces our widely-held industry view that ingrained negative attitudes towards packaging will only start to improve when consumers get the facts and science from Government which will enable them to work out for themselves the vital function packaging plays in protecting goods, extending food life and avoiding waste. We can also hope that changes in attitude will also accelerate alongside more comprehensive recycling of packaging by local councils.”