Making the most of our food and protecting our natural resources: food waste, packaging, and COVID-19.
There’s no question that the last few months have changed much about our daily lives - including what we eat and where. With offices, schools, and restaurants closed, many Canadians are eating more at home, and many of us stocked up on essentials when the pandemic’s impact became clear.
A pair of recent studies by researchers at Dalhousie University looked into how these changes have impacted food packaging and waste considerations.
Dalhousie’s study on food packaging before and after COVID‑19, released August 27, found that a large majority of Canadians (87%) remain concerned about the environmental impact of plastic food packaging. However, compared to a survey conducted last year, COVID has increased Canadians’ concerns about food affordability and safety, and some Canadians report they are buying more plastic packaged goods now.
A second study released September 1 found that Canadians feel they are wasting slightly more food at home compared to before the pandemic. People typically underestimate their food waste, so the estimated increase of about 13% could be worrying, but the study’s lead author notes that it isn’t clear that overall food waste has increased (for example, since there is now no food waste from closed restaurants).
There’s some other good news in the study on food waste. For example, most people seem to understand there’s no evidence indicating COVID can be transmitted on food - just 10% of respondents threw food away because they were worried about COVID contamination. Survey respondents also indicated they are paying attention to ways to reduce unnecessary food waste - like eating leftovers, using up fridge and pantry supplies, and meal planning.
FCPC has been a leader in the food industry for moving toward a future of zero plastic waste. We became Canada’s first national trade association to endorse the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's vision for a New Plastics Economy. Many FCPC members have committed to ensure all their packaging is recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025.
It’s important to note that “zero plastic waste” is not the same as “zero plastic.” Banning plastic may be trendy, but it fails to acknowledge the fact that plastic packaging can be a valuable tool for reducing food waste and keeping food clean and safe. That’s why we are committed to keeping plastic in the economy but out of the environment and landfills, where it does not belong.
Globally, food waste accounts for eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as road transportation. Using the right packaging can have a significant impact on reducing the climate footprint associated with food waste. For example, a thin layer of plastic wrap can more than quadruple a cucumber’s shelf life.
Every day and in times of crisis, it’s critical that Canadians have access to the right packages to keep food safe, prevent food waste, and protect our environment - all at the same time.
By: Michael Graydon
CEO at Food & Consumer Products of Canada