Today is World Food Day. To many people, access to fresh, nutritious food is ‘normal’ – something taken for granted. But today, over 3 billion people don’t have access to a healthy diet. Paradoxically, a third of all food produced is never consumed. Reducing food loss and waste is essential to solving hunger in a world where the number of people affected by hunger is on the rise. It also can help our environment: about 8-10 percent of emissions driving the climate crisis can be attributed to food waste and loss, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Climate change, water shortages, soil erosion and a rapid growth in global population are making it increasingly difficult to grow enough nutritious food for all. If we can’t manage to feed the world’s population today, imagine the challenge to feed approximately 9.7 billion people on our planet by 2050…
Ultimately, food security relies on the entire supply chain – from farm to fork, so to speak. By taking a holistic approach through agriculture, transport and packaging, our industry can collaborate to create innovations that are designed for recyclability and that will contribute to more efficient food production and more effective food conservation.
What can we do today to help solve this global challenge, impacting so many around the world? There is no one answer. But through technical support, circular food packaging innovation and partnership building, we are committed to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2-Zero Hunger. In fact, we are using our materials science to help catalyze collaborations and innovations across the food value chain that could create long-lasting impact at the grassroots and global level. Let us highlight a few examples:
To feed the world, we need to get the most from the land we have, while reducing negative environmental impact. In Brazil, we have worked with other partners to help ranchers restore degraded pasture lands. Through technology and education, ranchers are learning to adopt enhanced cattle and herd management techniques that are restoring soil organic carbon levels of pastures while improving pasture capacity. This helps ranchers raise more cattle on less acreage, which can help alleviate the pressure for deforestation in Brazil. (Learn more.)
Our technologies also are helping farmers better manage their animal feed needs. In Kenya, we worked with Packaging Industries Limited to design breakthrough silage storage technology for small-scale dairy farmers. The Mama Silage bags are designed to help improve the nutritional quality of silage with minimal wastage. By enabling Kenyan farmers to better preserve animal feed for their dairy cows, it helps to provide a steady supply of milk and, consequently, a steady income for farmers throughout the year – even with uncertain climatic conditions.
The food lost or wasted annually is enough to feed all of the world’s hungry four times over. To help support healthy diets and cut food waste, we have partnered with the Montgomery County Food Bank to launch the Produce Rescue Center, which uses an innovative approach to collect, sort and redistribute produce rejected by retailers. Each week, truckloads of produce rejected by local retailers or wholesalers for various market reasons are sorted by volunteers, who rescue the edible items. What will not be consumed is turned into nutrient-rich compost. Rescued produce is then bagged using recyclable plastic bags, which help extend the life of rescued produce up to four times. And, these bags can be recycled using in-store drop-off programs for flexible packaging.
Since project launch, the Produce Rescue Center has rescued more than 16 million pounds of produce – providing fresh fruit and vegetables to people who may otherwise lack access to affordable, fresh and nutritious food. The project also is a win for the environment, by diverting waste from landfills. Find out more about the Produce Rescue Center here.
In many countries, the majority of food waste occurs after production, in supermarkets and in our homes. Fortunately, advances in plastic food packaging are helping to keep food fresh for longer while promoting a circular economy. Take meat, for example, which is a very resource-intensive food. In Japan, we have teamed up with AEON Co. Ltd, the largest retailer in Japan. The collaboration’s objective is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and food loss through better packaging of carbon-intensive products such as meat and seafood. Supported by our ionomer technology, vacuum skin packaging (VSP) results in less food waste due to better protection during shipment and extended shelf-life, less material waste and fewer preservatives.
Working with our customers and brands, we “design for recyclability” so packages function to ensure food protection as well as maximize its value for a circular economy. In Europe, we’re working with Bolloré to produce barrier shrink film that is manufactured using polymers made from a feedstock made from 100 percent plastic waste. The new film made from these circular polymers is recyclable and can help prolong the shelf life of food – doubling the use-by date of poultry from seven days to 14 days. As a result, more food can reach dinner tables instead of landfills.
By working collectively to define “what” a positive food systems future looks like and “how” to achieve it, we can find paths to better production, better nutrition and a better environment for all.