Speaking at the Save Food Congress in Düsseldorf, the managing director of the European Organization for Packaging and the Environment declared the formation of a private-public partnership between the two sectors would play a key role in slashing the 2.3bn tons of food that perishes in the world every year.
The conference, a joint initiative between the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Messe Düsseldorf, was held as part of the Interpack trade Fair. FAO representatives and the German Food Minister Ilse Aigner as well as experts from Nestle, Bosch and Danone all spoke on how to cut food waste- currently estimated to account for a third of all food produced.
In defence of packaging
In a 20-minute address, Carroll mounted a passionate defence of the role packaging plays in preserving and protecting food and censured policy makers for their lack of understanding.
“I often shake my head in despair at the sheer absurdity of the focus on packaging waste and sustainability by policymakers compared to food waste,” he said. “Packaging waste pales into insignificance compared with the losses caused by food waste.”
In India, post harvest grain loss amounts to 20m tonnes annually – a similar amount to total EU wheat exports. Fruit and vegetable post harvest waste in the country also reaches 50 per cent, or 80 million tonnes – a figure comparable to total EU production of fruit and vegetables, explained Carroll.
Packaging – part of the solution, not the problem
Packaging helps reduce food waste, said the EUROPEN head as he urged aid agencies to divert some cash away from buying food to helping poorer countries develop their packaging industries.
“Buying packaging instead of food may sound callous to some but packaging stands in the same relation to food security as the sewerage system stands to health,” added Carroll. “Proper sewerage has done more to extend life expectancy than all the miracles of modern medicine. Likewise, decent packaging is likely to generate more available food than the miracles of biotechnology. We cannot afford not to use it.”
The savings in waste by employing better handling and packaging technologies from farm to fork would generate as much extra food as is produced every year by the EU or US, he claimed.
The next step should be for policy makers to roll out strategies to develop packaging infrastructures. This would be a “win-win situation” for all concerned.
“Packaging is – by far- the lowest-hanging fruit we have as we seek to provide for the world. Packaging must be seen as part of the solution not part of the problem,” said Carroll.
He concluded that feeding the world’s burgeoning population was a realistic prospect if cross-sector partnerships were formed.
“With the packaging industry joining force with farmers, food processors, retailers and policymakers, the future looks decidedly rosier,” said the EUROPEN chief.