Food waste and plastic waste go hand in hand

Amsterdam, 10 April 2018 – A non-packaged tomato lasts a week, but if wrapped in plastic, it lasts twice as long. A cucumber lasts even three times as long thanks to its plastic covering. Is this why so much food is packaged in plastic? A report published today points to a major paradox. Unwrapped: How throwaway plastic is failing to solve Europe’s food waste problem (and what we need to do instead) shows that since single-use plastic packaging was introduced in the 1950s, not only has the amount of plastic waste increased, but also the amount of food waste. The two are growing in parallel while you would expect that the longer shelf-life of fresh foods would reduce food waste.

Marine garbage patches and food waste are two of the greatest social problems. The figures are unimaginable. Every European throws away 30 kilos of plastic waste and 70 kilos of food every year. Between 2004 and 2014, European households’ food waste doubled while discarded plastic packaging grew by 50% during this period. The economic value of wasted food in Europe in 2015 alone was estimated at 143 billion euros. Forecasts show that in 2020 in Europe, more than 900 billion packaged products (food and drink) will be sold.

Industry and retailers use food waste as a reason to wrap food in plastic. But in reality, the advantage is limited and there are other factors that explain the shelf life of food. Whether food is thrown away or not is not directly related to its longer shelf life. Food waste because of plastic rarely weighs up against the disadvantages of plastic in the environment. Producers mostly use plastic packaging to advertise their products, to transport food across long distances and to decide how much customers should buy at one go (just think about the number of fruit in a plastic net).

The report, compiled by Friends of the Earth, Zero Waste Europe and Rethink Plastic, pushes for a Europe wide approach that will drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste and food waste. Products do not always need to be packaged and the amount of plastic packaging can be greatly reduced. Unless it cannot be avoided, producers and retailers should always opt for packaging that can be reused.

And consumers? Wherever possible, they should always choose for no packaging.


Also read: Favourable outlook for natural branding and England introduces deposit system with coca colas support