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AMERIPEN: Food waste costs US consumers $162bn annually

Food packaging can play a powerful role in preventing costly food waste around the globe, according to the sustainable packaging organization.

The American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) reports American consumers toss out approximately 36m tons of food each year; that amounts to 654 lbs. per family, and about $936 per household.

According to the group, two-thirds of food discarded at home is due to spoilage before preparation, and about one-third is chalked up to cooking more than can be eaten.

Food waste defense

Donna Dempsey, AMERIPEN’s executive director, told FoodProductionDaily one powerful defense against costly food waste is packaging, though for most, it is not the first thing that comes to mind.

To most people, the fact that packaging plays a very positive role in our efforts to reduce food waste is counterintuitive,” she said. “They usually think about a package when it comes time to put it in the recycling or trash bin.”

Dempsey said ensuring a product’s packaging suits the item inside, as well as the consumer’s needs, can go a long way. Additionally, on-pack messaging can inform shoppers on proper storage, preparation tips, and other aspects to prevent waste and extend the food’s useful life.

That little bit of packaging saves a significant amount of food along with the related economic and environmental resources from being thrown away,” she said.

Food waste resource

In the interest of educating food firms, packaging professionals, and other stakeholders, AMERIPEN has released a brochure, Reducing Fresh Food Waste: The Role of Packaging. The literature is designed to outline the benefits of packaging, and its worth in maintaining a sustainable food supply.

In addition to the hit to a household’s budget, food waste hurts the environment via overproduction, poor land use, and the waste of myriad resources (including water to grow and produce food, fuel to transport it, and electricity to refrigerate it) along the supply chain. Additionally, the food tossed in the trash could be used to feed food-insecure people; according to hunger organization Feeding America, that figure comprises about 50m Americans.

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