Photo: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen ©Nofima

Project Year 2017

Packaging reduces food waste

 Innovation, consumer and sensory sciences    Food safety and quality  

The environmental impact of throwing food away far exceeds that of packaging it in plastic.

Many people think a lot of packaging is unnecessary and merely serves to make items more expensive or force us to buy larger quantities. However, the main function of packaging is to protect the food. The environmental impact of throwing food away is far greater than that of the packaging. In developing countries, up to 50% of food is wasted, in part due to poor packaging.

“The problem is not the packaging itself, but what people do with it after it has served its purpose,” says Marit Kvalvåg Pettersen, a scientist at Nofima.

Limp without packaging

Packaging solutions that make food last a few days longer can greatly reduce food waste.

Given the choice, would you pick limp broccoli or firm? Most people prefer firm vegetables, and limp ones often end up in the bin. In this context, it is useful to know that unpackaged broccoli goes limp in less than a week, while packaged broccoli will stay firm for over two weeks. The same goes for cauliflower.

“We have also seen that if we add a label that says ‘packaged for longer shelf life’, more people choose the packaged variety,” says Nofima scientist Valérie L. Almli.

Huge impact on food waste

Studies show that, given the choice between two sushi packages both produced on the same day, consumers choose the one with the longest use-by date. If in addition the label says ‘new packing technology for longer shelf life’, more people are willing to choose sushi produced two days ago.

“Correct packaging can reduce food waste and thus have a positive effect on the environment,” says Marit Kvalvåg Pettersen.

Then it is simply a matter of making sure that, once it has served its purpose as a food protector, the packaging is disposed of properly and does not end up in nature. That is a responsibility we all share.

Bama and other industrial partners in the REforReM research project

The Research Council of Norway

More useful research results