INCPEN (The Industry Council for research on Packaging & the Environment) is expanding its Fresher for Longer campaign in conjunction with WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) and Kent Waste Partnership among others.
Its research shows the length of time food stays fresh for is a priority for consumers, but many are not making best use of the information on the pack, or the packaging itself, to achieve this.
Packaged foods are fresher
They are also not aware of the benefits packaging can offer to maximise in-home shelf-life.
Jane Bickerstaffe, director INCPEN, told FoodProductionDaily, the campaign explains how people should choose their packaged goods if they are not going to eat the food inside straight away.
“Packaged foods are usually fresher than those sold loose. People are encouraged to buy their bananas without a bag but if you buy it with a bag it will last up to seven days longer,” she said.
“This also applies to a bag of apples if you put them in a fridge. Often, people remove their food from the packaging but the bag is doing something useful so people need to keep it inside its packaging.
“We are extending our Fresher for Longer campaign to extend the programme to work with other local authorities and other retailers besides Marks&Spencer to build on it. If you buy produce loose you end up throwing the food away.”
INCPEN found approximately 60% of household food waste arises from products ‘not used in time’, mainly perishable or short shelf-life products, with a value of around £6.7bn.
Bickerstaffe added although much research has been carried out separately on food waste, and food packaging, this integrated research with the Food and Drink Federation, the Packaging Federation and the British Retail Consortium to help consumers keep food Fresher for Longer has added significantly to its understanding, and the association’s ability to help develop and deliver campaigns to help consumers.
Global Action Plan
In September, the group will also launch an initiative with NGO Global Action Plan to take the message into schools.
“It’s important to make people understand the environmental impact of packaging,” said Bickerstaffe.
“Overall, this research shows small changes in behaviour around packaging, and continued innovation, could deliver the benefits consumers are looking for – keeping food fresher for longer, saving money and reducing the impact of food waste on the environment.”
As part of the campaign, information on packaging is being updated in line with WRAP recommendations and local authorities and consumer groups will provide advice on buying food with the appropriate packaging (for example loose or packaged if you want to keep it fresher for longer), buying the right pack size and looking more closely at labels.
In other news, Bickerstaffe said she has been struck recently by the figures about UK recycling rates stagnating .
“As a country we are generating less waste, sending less to land fill and recycling more materials but the general response to the announcement in Government that there has been a tiny drop in the recycling rate has been met with doom and gloom,” she added.
“But, if you look behind the headline statistics it tells a different story. Recycling figures include not just recyclables like newspapers and cans but green waste, which is sent for composting – garden and kitchen waste.
“If you look at the drop here the culprit for that is the British weather. These figures are for when we recycled during the last quarter of 2013. Last year we had a dry hot summer which meant less lush plants and grass growth and that produced an 11% drop in green waste.
“Despite the headlines about recycling less, consumers didn’t lose interest in recycling they just did less mowing and pruning of things.
“Very few people understand this when they see recycling rates, they only think of newspapers, cans and bottles.
“People whip themselves about recycling but, food manufacturers should encourage people to support their local schemes and advise them on what not to recycle because some food contaminated packaging is not sensible to recycle."