Concerns grow over food waste
Concern about food waste and food security appear to be rising worldwide among consumers, international organizations, national governments and members of the food supply chain.
Statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Geneva, Switzerland/New York, NY, estimate nearly one-third of the food produced worldwide is lost. In the United States, one in six Americans struggles with hunger. In addition food waste has a dramatic impact on the environment. Food in landfills creates methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, DC.
Pope Francis spoke about food waste on World Environment Day (June 5, 2013). During a general audience in Rome, he said: “Let us remember well, however, whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry! I ask everyone to reflect on the problem of the loss and waste of food, to identify ways and approaches which, by seriously dealing with this problem, convey solidarity and sharing with the underprivileged.”
To showcase how packaging can help reduce the two primary causes of food waste – poor infrastructure and premature discard -- Interpack 2014, a triennial packaging show held in Dusseldorf, Germany, will include the Save Food Exhibition and Congress. Launched at Interpack 2011 by FAO and Messe Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany, the organizer of Interpack and other trade fairs worldwide, The Save Food initiative is conducting a field study in Kenya to identify where losses occur. The study will evaluate the magnitude of food losses, primary causes, and cost-effectiveness of loss prevention measures. “This study will serve as a model for field studies soon to be organized in seven other countries in Africa and Asia,” says Robert van Otterdijk, team leader of Save Food, Dusseldorf, Germany. “All field studies will be conducted, combining a food chain approach to loss assessments with cost-benefit analyses to help identify which intervention provides the best return on investment,” he adds. For more information, visit www.save-food.org.
In the United Kingdom, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), London, published Guidance to the Application of Date Marks to Food in 2011. Its goal is to reduce premature disposal by specifying food packaging carry a “use-by” or “best-before” date instead of a “sell-by” and “display-until” date. “We want to end the food labeling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat,” explained Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman in a statement. “This simpler and safer date labeling guide will help households cut down on the £12 billion [US$19 billion] worth of good food [5.3 million tons] that ends up in the bin.” For more information, visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-the-application-of-date-labels-to-food.
Closer to home EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge asks participants to set specific food-waste targets and then works with them to measure progress and attain goals. In a related effort, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, and the EPA encourage producer groups, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities and other government agencies to join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Founding members include General Mills, St. Paul, MN, and Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, as well as a number of other food companies and industry groups.
Participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge commit to:
The Food Waste Challenge also provides web-based resources including food waste measurement tools and information about recovery/donations and recycling. Consumers don’t participate directly, but part of the website, www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/index.htm, offers guidelines regarding food purchase, storage and use-by dating.
“General Mills is deeply committed to reducing and eliminating food waste at every opportunity, and we recognize this as a critical challenge for both food manufacturers and consumers,” states Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer, General Mills, which also co-chairs the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a group consisting of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington, DC; the Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, VA; the National Restaurant Association, Washington, DC; and other food companies. “Dramatically reducing the amount of wasted food is a critical strategy in the drive for food security in the United States. Nearly 40 million tons of food waste is sent to landfill every year – that’s enough to meet the needs of every hungry American,” explains Lynch. “Food waste sent to landfill is the biggest opportunity for our industries to address hunger in America and lessen our environmental footprint,” he concludes.
General Mills has established systems to identify opportunities throughout its supply chain to capture food for donation, such as surplus ingredients or over-runs of seasonal or promotional packaging. The company’s efforts to decrease food waste generation have reduced overall waste generation at its manufacturing facilities 40% since 2005. General Mills continually seeks to rescue food from landfill. In 2012, the company donated more than 10,800 metric tons of surplus food to U.S. charitable organizations – feeding hundreds of thousands of people. Since 1999, General Mills has donated US$250 million in food worldwide.
“To have a truly sustainable food supply, we must work together to take action to reduce the high levels of food waste in our society, which would have social, economic and environmental benefits,” says Kees Kruythoff, president of Unilever North America. “We are excited to support this important U.S. initiative which aligns closely with our business’s war on waste, our effort to promote global food security, and the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan where we have committed to significantly reduce waste and to source 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably,” he adds.
In 2013 Unilever hit its target for zero non-hazardous waste to landfill, including food waste, from its 22 U.S. factories and the company’s U.S. head offices. At each site, employee-led teams continuously identify ways to reduce waste or divert it from landfills through donations, recycling/composting or waste-to-energy conversion. Since 2010, Unilever has diverted 11 million pounds of food products to partners, Feeding America, Chicago, IL; and Feed the Children, Oklahoma City, OK.
Unilever also leads educational initiatives targeted toward consumers and customers. A partnership with Recyclebank, New York, NY, a digital platform that provides incentives to consumers for taking green actions, provides ideas to minimize food waste. Plans call for Unilever food brands to engage consumers on delicious ways to enjoy rather than waste leftovers. In addition the Unilever Food Solutions business is working with industry and external partners through United Against Waste, an initiative to help foodservice and restaurant outlets reduce food waste and cut costs.
Trade associations also promote elimination of food waste. The PAC Food Waste Initiative, undertaken by PAC - The Packaging Association (PAC), Toronto, Ontario, plans to implement several projects in 2014. “There are opportunities to reduce food waste through packaging improvements throughout the supply chain,” predicts Bruce Smith, chairman of PAC, who also serves as director of Global Packaging for Molson Coors, Denver, CO. “PAC wants to investigate the causes, identify opportunities for innovation, extend product shelf life and inform and educate to the broader community,” he adds.
The first meeting of founding members is scheduled to take place on November 14, 2013. Only members of PAC may join, however, any participant in the food supply chain is eligible, including members of the agricultural establishment, food distributors and processors, retailers, material/package manufacturers, packaging machinery suppliers, associations, non-governmental organizations and government entities. For more information, visit www.pacfoodwaste.com.Back to Top >
As sustainability targets are reached and new goals are set, consumer packaged goods companies like SC Johnson, Racine, WI; L’Oreal Group, Clichy, France; and Garnier, New York, NY; are moving beyond emphasis on resource conservation and carbon footprint reduction.
L’Oreal defines its 2020 sustainability commitment under the slogan, Sharing Beauty with All. Goals include improving its value chain and sharing growth with the communities it touches to win 1 billion new consumers, produce more sales with less impact and deliver more sustainable choices to consumers. Regular progress reports will be issued with the help of a panel of independent assessors chaired by Jose Maria Figueres, the president of the Carbon War Room, Washington, DC, an independent non-profit organization focused on the global transition to a low carbon economy.
The Sharing Beauty with All targets for 2020 involve four areas:
Garnier USA, a L’Oreal brand, is already progressing toward 2020 goals. In recognition of its efforts, it has received the first Sustainability Pioneer Award from Organic Monitor, London, UK, a research, consulting and training company, which focuses on global sustainable product industries. Presented at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, October 21, 2013, in Paris, the Award recognizes achievements in five categories: Green Formulations, Sustainable Packaging, Sustainable Ingredient, Sustainability Pioneer and Sustainability Leadership. Judges consider leadership in packaging, waste management, energy management, corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy.
Also of note is Garnier’s exclusive partnership with TerraCycle®, Trenton, NJ, a recycler of post-consumer waste collected from individuals and groups. For every piece of hair care, skin care and cosmetic packaging waste received by TerraCycle, Garnier contributes $0.02 to the school or charity of the collector’s choice.
Material from beauty product waste has been recycled into trash receptacles, donated by Garnier, for use in Newark, NJ, parks. The waste also has been used to make plastic lumber for raised garden beds, picnic tables and trash receptacles at a community garden in New York City, which was damaged during Hurricane Sandy (see May/June 2013, TricorBraun Sustainability Times).
SC Johnson’s 2013 sustainability report notes progress toward 2016 environmental goals related to renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions, landfill waste and products that consume fewer resources and require less packaging. Since 2000 SC Johnson has reduced its global manufacturing waste 62%, and seven company sites have achieved zero landfill status. For consumer waste reduction, concentrated cleaners feature a 63% reduction in plastic compared to a standard spray bottle. The company has also saved 900,000 pounds of resin globally with adoption of its new Mr Muscle® bottles.
With 10 major renewable energy initiatives implemented since 2003, renewable energy now supplies 30% of the company’s needs and has eliminated 6,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
To serve the greater good, the company invests in disease prevention programs in Southeast Asia and Africa and supports local farming cooperatives in Rwanda to increase production and quality of the pyrethrum – a natural insecticide used in products such as Raid® and Baygon®.
In 2012/2013, SC Johnson reached thousands with a dengue prevention campaign in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that included a Facebook alert campaign and an education competition for 100 schools. The Malaysia program builds on a multi-year effort in the Philippines where the company has reached 1.65 million households and visited more than 4,000 communities. SC Johnson also collaborates with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight malaria.
The company’s Green Choices website and Twitter account provide consumers with tips on how to increase sustainable behaviors such as recycling and saving energy
Philanthropic contributions help many communities and include $3 million in product donations to those in need, including victims of Hurricane Sandy. The company also has pledged $5 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, to help develop the American Enterprise exhibition as well as a state-of-the-art conference center for educational gatherings.
Other commitments include serving as a sponsor for the Regeneration Roadmap, an initiative by GlobeScan, Toronto, Ontario, and SustainAbility, London, UK, to create a comprehensive plan to achieve sustainable development within the next generation. For more information, visit www.loreal.com/sharingbeautywithall, www.garnier.com, www.terracycle.com and www.scjohnson.com/report.Back to Top >
Roughly 80% of consumers rarely, if ever, recycle packaging from bathroom products, according to a report commissioned by the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies (J&JFCC), Skillman, NJ. In fact, 40% of respondents report recycling no bathroom items at all. As a result nearly 552 million 15-ounce shampoo bottles could be ending up in U.S. landfills each year. The market research, conducted by Shelton Group, Knoxville, TN, a sustainability- focused advertising and marketing agency, shows recycling in the bathroom is simply not top-of-mind for many people. Among the reasons cited, 22% said they had never thought about recycling in the bathroom and 20% didn’t know products in the bathroom could be recycled.
J&J’s Care to Recycle™ campaign seeks to change this behavior. It reportedly ranks as the first recycling awareness campaign to be hosted exclusively on the microblogging and social networking website, Tumblr. J&JFCC also is adding the Care to Recycle message to product packaging.
“After reviewing the results of the research, we saw a very real opportunity to help reduce waste by educating people about recyclable bathroom items,” says Paulette Frank, vice president, Sustainability for J&JFCC. “With its active community of highly engaged content seekers, Tumblr seemed like the ideal platform to help spread the word about recycling in the smallest room of the house and how it can make a big difference to our planet,” she explains.
The Smallest Room video on the website reminds viewers that one step toward a healthy planet is to recycle in the bathroom. Users are encouraged to share the video at various points on the Tumblr page, which also includes tips and resources to successfully recycle bathroom items. All the content is shareable within the Tumblr platform, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
The Care To Recycle Tumblr site also includes information and links to campaign partners including Recyclebank, New York, NY, where consumers can earn rewards after learning about recycling; Keep America Beautiful, Stamford, CT, and its America Recycles Day program; Net Impact, San Francisco, CA, and its Small Steps, Big Wins competition, where students earn points for recycling bathroom products and other social and environmental actions; and Earth 911, Scottsdale, AZ, which provides a recycling locator where individuals can find out what they can recycle and where. For more information, visit www.caretorecycle.com.
Test shows most full-wrap labels remove cleanly
Delabeling equipment removes most shrink sleeve labels cleanly from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles with virtually no damage to the containers, according to testing by the Full-Wrap Label Consortium, Kingsport, TN. In addition, results show the delabeling process not only helps eliminate label contamination, but also maximizes recycled PET yield.
During the trial run, up to 97% of labels with perforation were removed when an intact bale was fed through the bottle recycling process (including debaling, whole bottle wash and delabeling). As a result, members of the Consortium, organized by Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, TN, classify delabeling equipment as a prime solution to ensure recycling stream purity, both near- and long-term.
“Through discussions with members of the value chain during the Consortium meetings, we’ve gained a better understanding of potential innovative solutions, including perforations and near infrared capabilities, as well as new equipment options available to the market,” says Holli Whitt, market development manager, sustainability for specialty plastics, Eastman. “The Consortium has opened opportunities for collaboration among groups that were already independently working toward similar goals,” she notes.
New label materials are available too. For example, Cryovac® LT1 multilayer, full-body shrink sleeve film from Sealed Air Corp., Elmwood Park, NJ, is designed to separate and float from source PET bottles during the recycling process. “Shrink label separation has emerged as one of the greatest challenges for PET recyclers, who battle accumulating waste as a result of high-density labels that sink and ultimately mix with PET bottle flakes,” explains Scott Keefauver, marketing manager, Sealed Air Packaging Solutions.
The low-density 0.95-gram-per-cubic-centimeter Cryovac® LT1 material not only separates during recycling, but also represents a source reduction of up to 30% compared to monolayer shrink sleeve labels. With low temperature, high shrink (70% transverse direction/-3% machine direction at 90 Celsius), the material is compatible with highly contoured containers and traditional shrink sleeve converting and application equipment. It’s also polyvinyl-chloride-free, eliminating another potential contaminant from the PET recycling stream. Superior optics (high gloss and clarity, plus low haze) maximize shelf impact. For more information, visit www.shrinkfilms.com.
The Full-Wrap Label Consortium is dedicated to solving recycling stream issues such as identification of PET containers with full-wrap labels, removal of labels, separation of label material from PET and development of non-bleeding ink. Formed in August 2012, the membership has doubled to include more than 100 representatives from approximately 50 companies. Membership encompasses the PET value chain, including major brands, consumer goods manufacturers, resin producers, film extruders, print converters and label producers, equipment manufacturers, bottlers and packagers, plastics recyclers and independent testing firms. The next meeting of the Consortium is scheduled in December 2013. For more information, contact Holli Whitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or (423) 229-8236.Back to Top >