Reducing Waste in Packaging
The environmental impact and cost of inappropriate packing is forcing major retail and supermarket chains to evaluate product specifications. This will inevitably require the poultry industry to cooperate with their major clients in creating innovative presentations which preserve the quality and appearance of food but provide economies in energy input and disposal. By Simon Shane
The environmental impact and cost of inappropriate packing is forcing major retail and supermarket chains to evaluate product specifications. This will inevitably require the poultry industry to cooperate with their major clients in creating innovative presentations which preserve the quality and appearance of food but provide economies in energy input and disposal.
The UK initiative WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Program) involves 13 top grocery retailers, committed to minimizing waste. Their objective is to design packages which minimize the growth in waste by 2008 and to absolutely reduce waste in packing by mid-2010.
This group, under the sponsorship of the Minister of the Environment subscribes to the Courtauld Commitment which is consistent with the pro-environmental image of Marks and Spencers, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose.
McDonald’s Corporation introduced a comprehensive Waste Reduction Action Plan in 1991. Since this time the company estimates that waste has been reduced by 25 million tons. Purchases of recycled cardboard have amounted to 1 million tons and €2.5 billion has been expended on recycled materials.
McDonalds Corporation works closely with suppliers and industrial engineers and public advocacy groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund to implement a program which encompasses over 100 initiatives.
Wal-Mart the world’s largest retailer has established a “green rating” system for packaging that will in the future influence and eventually control the supply of products. With immediate effect 2,000 private label suppliers are classifying packaging in accordance with a “sustainable scorecard” which will eventually extend to 60,000 worldwide suppliers.
The objectives of the program are to reduce the quantum of packaging, use renewable materials and reduce energy. It is estimated that if Wal-Mart reduces the cost of packaging by 5% it will save $3.4 billion annually.
The reduction in waste equates to thousands of tons of material placed in landfills and a significant reduction in carbon dioxide generated. A 12-month pilot program for toys saved 3,500 tons of corrugated cardboard, 1,400 barrels of oil, and $3.5 million in transport costs. Eventually the savings will be extended to 160,000 products delivered to 175 million consumers each week.
Potential contribution by the poultry industry
The egg industries of many countries use petroleum-based plastic foam and polystyrene cartons for eggs, most of which are not recycled and are dumped in landfills. Sophisticated synthetic packaging for further-processed turkey and broiler products are designed more for eye appeal than environmental responsibility.
Poultry producers should actively initiate programs to reduce wasteful packaging. This will require cooperation with clients and intensive education programs for consumers. Ingenuity and innovation in packaging could achieve acceptable eye appeal while reducing energy and disposal costs.
By: Simon Shane