Today, 795 million people are suffering from hunger and it is expected that an additional 2 billion people by 2050 due to global population growth will need feeding. According to the United Nations, the world population is estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion in 2015, therefore food security issues are going to become more serious. Despite these facts, 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually and it contributes to 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 production per year in the world. While numerous people can’t obtain enough food, huge amount of food is wasted. Now, each of us needs to be aware of these facts and challenge ourselves to reduce food waste.
Where food is wasted?
Whilst food waste is seen more at the production stage in developing countries, food is wasted more at the consumption stage in developed countries. In the context of the UK, around 10 million tonnes (worth around £ 17 billion) is wasted annually and, surprisingly households produce around 70% of this food waste. Moreover, it is said that one-quarter of purchased food is discarded in UK households (by weight).
How does food become food waste?
In the UK, vegetables were the most wasted product compared to other types of food; over 800 tonnes in 2012. On the other hand, meat and fish, which requires high hygiene management was ranked 7th; around 300 tonne. From this bar graph, it is found that 2 main reasons, which are “not used in time” and “Cooked, prepared or served too much”, dominate regarding food waste in a livelihood.
But, how have these situations happened. How does food become food waste? Most of the products in supermarkets are labelled on the package that ‘use by date’ or ‘best before use’ based on the regulation and guidance. However, research discovered that consumers assess food based on sensuous criteria such as smells, colour and looking rather than the labels, especially in the case of meats .
Furthermore, food degrades in daily practices when consumers face “something more important” regarding the distribution of time, safety and responsibility, even though consumers feel guilty producing food waste. Although the common idea that producing food waste is ethically ‘wrong’ exists, processes of producing food waste could go beyond consumer’s ethical concerns in unpredictable situations. Therefore, consumers should control food stock and avoid keeping too much food in a household. So far, various strategies to tackle food waste have been assessed. Especially, WRAP’s campaign, which was launched in 2007, is well known in the UK and it succeeded in at least 380,000 tonnes food waste reduction in 2009 compared with 2006/7. This campaign led consumers behavioural modification to stop keeping extra food stocks such as checking food stocks before shopping and making a shopping list, yet still a huge amount of food waste coming from households has continued.
Why? Our efforts as a consumer might not be enough. But, I believe that oversized packages and portion sizes, which have been becoming bigger in the past 50 years are definitely one obstacle. Although consumers can control the total amount of food they buy, the amount of each individual food cannot be arranged by consumers.
So, should we stop using packages? This is maybe not the answer. While packages could be a barrier to reduction of food waste, they also play important role against this issue from another view. Packages protect the contents physically and they enable to long distance transport and maintaining hygiene of food. Moreover, since fresh vegetables and fruits continue the respiration after harvest, reduction of respiration rate and heat by using effective packages are necessary to keep the quality of food .
The innovation of package design
(Under the Tesco license)
In 2016, Tesco introduced a new package for chicken fillet, which has a compartment to divide 2 portion chicken to tackle food waste issues. It was realised by the corporative development with LINPAC and Cargill , and Tesco emphasises that “We are the first retailer in the UK to launch this pack”. According to their own research, the package could reduce 1370 tonnes food waste of chicken annually, which produces 5490 tonnes of CO2. Additionally, despite the increase of this tray’s weight is just only 6 g, the rate of reuse rose by more than 91% . Since environmental concerns of packages themselves regarding materials are infrangible, this package is evaluated as environmentally well-designed.
If this package is applied for other types of meat, further possibilities could be expected, not only for food waste strategy but also as a public health strategy. Minimising food portion size has the most effective to the reduction of obesity, therefore I suppose that packaging of smaller portion sizes of food have a potential to enhance the population health through tackling obesity.
Expectations for the UK supermarket
According to the UK national survey, single occupancy households reached 28% in 2016, therefore the demands of small portion packages for vegetables certainly exists. Even though some vegetables are sold individually, consumers could buy the big bags against their consume capacities due to the high cost-performance. In order to challenge this consumer psychology, supermarkets work on small packages for vegetables in some countries such as the US and Japan. These innovations could expand consumers’ food choices and it improves food security from nutrition perspectives.
Under the Linkeside Produce license
“When I go food shopping, I always face the dilemma of ‘this big package is much cheaper than buying carrots, potatos and onions individually’ VS ‘this bag is too much for me to finish on my own’. I consider for a while and I often choose the big bag for value but I srtuggle to consume it all. The variety of vegetables is limited and my food often goes off while I go out to eat with my friends, of course I always try not to waste of my food though. I wish I could buy smaller size and variety of foods”.