Plastic packaging enables our modern way of life, and allows us to address one of Canada’s largest problems: Food Waste.
Ending Food Waste
Plastic packaging is the most efficient and economically viable solution to preventing food waste and keeping food prices lower.
Leading to Zero Food Waste
As a country, Canadians throw away nearly $50 billion in avoidable wasted food products. Just think about the amount of food that is tossed at the grocery store because of spoilage or even bruising – foods that are unsold because of appearance or food that falls out of bins and off of conveyer belts.
Food waste does not only include what you buy at the grocery store, but all the steps in between that are ‘wasted’ as a result of the final product no longer being usable. The significant environmental costs of wasted food include the lost energy and resources that go into the production, transportation, and storage of food. As a result, protecting and prolonging the life of perishable food goes a long way in helping protect the environment and reduce emissions. Afterall, food waste accounts for about 170 trillion litres of wasted water per year and contributes to over 10% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions per year.
Solutions to food waste exist, and the plastics industry is already committed to solving them by offering better, more efficient packaging solutions. If food stays fresh and safe to eat for longer periods of time, it is less likely to be wasted.
Half of food waste occurs after products arrive at the grocery store. Better packaging options can help keep food products safe while being stocked and sold at grocery stores and can extend the shelf life of products after they are purchased. For example, innovative plastics packaging techniques can extend the shelf life of meat products up to 21 days or more. A report by Winpak Inc. also shows that it can keep food safe from human contact, germs, and cross contamination between products. Plastics solutions are the best way to ensure that food arrives to consumers in a safe, reliable, and wasteless manner.
Canadians are already doing their part to recycle plastic packaging waste. Drop off bins at local grocery stores and efforts by advanced recycling facilities to collect and recycle used plastic packaging are helping to ensure that addressing issues related to food waste are not creating more plastic waste.
Industry innovators are also leading the charge to develop new solutions, and they are working quickly. For example, Winpak Inc., a North American plastics packaging company, recently launched a new line of sustainable packaging options, which focus on using recycling machinery and existing technology to transform their plastic packaging into new products. BASF SE announced that its pilot project reciChain, which incentivizes plastics recycling and reuse through a scalable blockchain mechanism, will expand to British Columbia. These are just two examples of innovative packaging solutions that use existing infrastructure and technology.
Plastic Packaging as
Recycling Plastic Packaging
Plastic is Critical to Canada’s National Food Waste Strategy
Instead of moving away from plastic packaging, which is an essential tool in reducing food waste, let’s focus on the problem area which is end-of-life management. Collaboration between industry and the Federal government focused on recycling innovations and creating a circular economy for plastics will ensure end-of-life life management for post-consumer plastics. Transitioning attention away from plastics packaging solutions will further hurt consumers, while not actually solving our food waste challenges.
In mid-November 2020, the Canadian government announced a national competition, the Food Waste Recycling Challenge, to encourage innovators to present new ideas to solve food waste challenges. The government is investing $20 million in the initiative and will award the winner with $1.5 million. While increased government focus on important issues like food waste brings national attention to these issues, industry solutions are already working to reduce food waste through innovative plastics packaging options.