Taking a smarter approach to reducing waste

Taking a smarter approach to reducing waste

With households accounting for over a third of national food waste, there’s more we can do to reduce waste at home experts say, while packaging has a surprising role to play.

Australian households contribute 34%, or 2.5 million tonnes, towards national food waste figures, according to Principal Research Fellow in the School of Design, Associate Professor Karli Verghese.  

A large proportion of that ends up in landfill, releasing methane-rich greenhouse gases as it decomposes.

Is there a way to have an impact on so much food waste?

By taking a smarter approach, such as adopting the ‘first in first out’ rule, households can have a positive impact, according to Verghese, who is the Reduce Program Leader in the Fight Food Waste CRC.

“This approach involves rotating your stored food items so that you consume those with the closest use-by dates first, placing food with the furthest dates at the back,” she said.

“If different serving sizes are available, make sure you purchase products appropriate for your household size and make-up.

"Food packaging is part of the equation because it protects our food and maintains food safety, freshness and nutritional value," she explained.

“Look out for resealable features on packaging, as it’s been designed so you can take out some of the product, while leaving the remainder behind for another meal.

“Individual portion packs are also designed so that you open and consume a specific serving size, while leaving the other individual portions sealed for a future time, extending its life instead of ending up in landfill.”

 

Food waste can be more harmful to the environment than its packaging

Food brand owners, retailers, or packaging companies have a great opportunity to assist in packaging and food waste reduction, according to leading sustainability, design innovation researcher in the School of Design, Dr Simon Lockrey.

"Counter-intuitively, the food waste component of a product can have far greater environmental impacts than the packaging,” he said.

Some packaging had beneficial features ‘designed in’ to reduce food waste that consumers were not always aware of or using.

"Greater consumer awareness is needed about the benefits of packaging ranging from its resealable function, modified atmosphere and other mechanical features that extend food shelf life or protect it over time,” Lockrey said.

"Food retailers and brand owners could look at assisting consumers with food planning, portion control, and other strategies to reduce food waste before it happens.”

However, unnecessary packaging should be minimized where possible, Lockrey added.

He said circular approaches to both packaging and food waste that couldn’t be avoided should be 'front of mind'.

“This requires governments, industry, and the waste management sector to collaborate in order to tackle the current waste infrastructure crisis, and potentially tap into or build new markets for circular materials and products."

 

Story: Diana Robertson

 

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  • Sustainability
  • Design
  • Environment

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