Making biocomposite materials entirely from renewable sources is great. Using waste material in the process is fantastic.
Last week Finnish UPM introduced a new fibre based biocomposite material, all made from forestry and renewable resources and even including using waste from existing pulp production. The material is called EcoAce and meets the desired sustainability requirements and can be widely used, including uses in food contact, personal care and consumer goods, made by injection moulding or extrusion. This is great and will save tonnes of GHG and I really like concept of finding practical use of stuff that would otherwise be waste! Splendid!
StoraEnso is at present busy with a trial of lids made from DuraSense, another biocomposite, together with Finnish dairy Valio. The lids are reusable and will be used on dairy product cups to test the wood-based biocomposite in food packaging. Valio sees it as a step not only towards a more sustainable packaging solution but also to less food-waste. With re-sealable packaging the content is protected, and an opened product lasts longer. Brilliant!
Power from the forest! Swedish Ligna Energy came up with another use for wood from the forest. They have developed a fibre based battery for storing of energy made from forestry waste material. Ligna Energy plan to convert ordinary paper machines to manufacture batteries based on organic electronic polymers and biopolymers from the forest. It wood be nice if this could make a difference for storing energy!
Some podcasts are for fun and other are for news and updates. And then there are “industry pods” aimed for people with very particular interests looking for inspiration and information. Like for instance, packaging pods.
I try to squeeze in a podcast whenever I have a minute to spare. There is plenty to choose from and I am sure that we all can find pods that cover our very special interest. This includes the packaging industry which is covered in the quite impressive and completely overwhelming flow of pods.
And here I mean pods, not webinars, that are reasonably regularly occurring broadcasts and here are a few to bookmark to the pod platform of your choice.
Below I have listed a few English speaking pods that are focused on the packaging industry and current packaging issues.
Packaging Strategies, the American trade magazine, is running a pod under the name Packaging Perspectives. They are interviewing industry experts and are covering industry news to keep us “up-to-date, informed, and entertained.” Not very frequent but in total 6 episodes during 2019.
Flexible Packaging is a related magazine who are offering the Flexible Packaging Podcast. The same concept as above but a bit less frequent, 3 shows during last year. And with a focus on flexible packaging.
People of Packaging Podcast is also an American podcast where people in the packaging industry are discussing current issues with Adam Peek and Ted Taitt and is a part of the Business and Bourbon network.
Shelf Impactors is about branding and packaging design. Blue Nectar Design, a British design agency is behind the show. It might have a slightly sporadic schedule but there are interesting things to dig out from archives.
FoodBev Media are behind the FoodBev podcast. Focus is more on news updates rather than interviews and is a weekly podcast, at least until November last year. It has been quiet since, but we hope for a soon return.
Packaging Europe, the magazine, is distributing a podcast every now and then. 7 shows were recorded last year and already two are available for this year. Various topics and interviews.
Turn up the volume and enjoy. Or why not make a pod of your own!
Now there is a report entirely about this, the Swedish packaging industry. Until now there hasn’t been an updated compilation of the current status available. The packaging industry is often, when it comes to statistics, consolidated with other industries and therefore “invisible”.
The report explains the packaging industry and how it has developed during the recent 5 years from a revenue, profitability and employment perspective. There is also a description of some of the forces and trends that will shape the industry, both on short and long term.
Food waste is a major challenge involving the entire value chain. The main culprit is however and without doubt found at consumer level.
This is a complex problem but part of the solution lies in using better and more suitable packaging.
We simply can’t afford the current level of food wasted. Exactly how much is wasted is impossible to say, but a global estimate is more than 1 billion tons of food that is somehow lost or wasted on a yearly basis. That is about one staggering third of the global food production! Better adapted packaging is part of the solution.
The problem This loss and wastage occur on all steps in the food supply chain but if we stay in the developed world a whole lot of food is wasted in the end of the road from the famous farm to the fork. The main culprit seems to be found at the final consumption stage, in our homes. But also, the other steps along the chain are involved in this.
A very recent report from Swedish Naturvårdsverket is mapping out the current Food Waste situation in the country. And it is not pretty. In 2018 about 1.3 million tons of food waste was generated in Sweden. This is an average of 133 kilos of food waste per person. As the graph clearly illustrates the main problem lies in the hands of the end-consumers in the households.
The problem isn’t easily pin pointed and solved as it involves all engaged in the consumption, production and distribution chain. But packaging is part of the problem and therefore also part of the solution.
The packaging link This is a waste we can’t afford when we are going from 7 billion people to become 10 billion of us, not in Sweden but on the planet, in 2050. If we instead of increasing food production and cultivate vast new areas could save a third of what we today produce, we would in theory solve the problem to feed the growing world population.
The massive waste of food in the households has many reasons. Too little shopping planning and lack of pantry and fridge management to start with and perhaps food is too cheap and available. But as much as 20-25% of consumer food waste could be related to packaging.
The packaging is a part of the problem when ineffective packaging is used.
This could be about size, too big or a multi-pack, simply too much product and more than you can or want to consume.
It could be the lack of possibilities to re-seal the opened packaging and the content gets exposed and destroyed.
It could be packaging that can’t be shut tight enough and oxygen, light or something spoils the product.
Not clear enough instructions about storage, with the result that a product is kept too warm too cold, is part of the story.
Packaging that is hard to empty or confusion around the date labelling of a product.
Or it could be too ambitious light weighting that can lead to packaging that simply isn’t good enough to withstand a bumpy ride to the destination. To mention a few. Much of the above comes to structural design of packaging but a lot of food is wasted because of the confusion about “best before” and” use by” date labels. One day we will have dynamic best before dates with built in sensors showing the actual best before date rather than a fixed one. But we are not quite there yet.
The solution Apart from consumers improving their fridge management and doing more organized shopping the packaging industry can offer better packaging solutions. And food producers can use it…!
So, what is more effective packaging then? What I mean is packaging that is
Re-sealable. That is a screw cap, a zip-lock or something that enables the consumer to save product for later.
Easy emptying. Think of how to make it easier to empty the pack. It can be instructions on how to or a packaging feature like a collapsible container.
Modified or Controlled Atmosphere (MAP/CAP) these are technologies used to keep fresh food fresh for longer and adds real value by extending shelf-life.
Barrier materials. Use packaging with good enough barriers to oxygen, light or whatever is breaking down the content. The result is again extended shelf-life and less food waste.
Portion packages. This is a low hanging but effective fruit. By using smaller portion packs, the small household gets a better control of usage.
Smart packaging solutions of various kinds are helpful. Smart labels indicating time or temperature, ripeness for fruit, freshness for meat, fish, etc.
Technology is developing enabling new and better packaging solutions. Sensors are coming down in price and new creative concepts are brought forward by entrepreneurs. But it hasn’t all have to be hi-tech, a cucumber has a “best before” life of 3 days and by wrapping it in plastic it increases by almost 5 times, to 14 days. Portion packs may require more packaging material but will probably save food from being wasted.
And the greenhouse gas emissions or GHGE related to food packaging is typically small, typically around 5%, relative to the emissions associated with producing and processing the food itself.