Food Packaging for Sustainable Development

University dissertation from Karlstad : Karlstad University

Abstract: Packaging has been on the environmental agenda for decades. It has been discussed and debated within the society mainly as an environmental problem. Production, distribution and consumption of food and drinks contribute significant to the environmental impact. However, consumers in the EU waste about 20% of the food they buy. The function of packaging in reducing the amount of food losses is an important but often neglected environmental issue.This thesis focuses on the functions of packaging that can be used to preserve resources efficiently and reduce the environmental impact of the food-packaging system. The service perspective is used to increase knowledge about consumer interaction with packages. Fifteen packaging attributes, for example, ‘easy to empty’, ‘hygienic’ and ‘contain the right quantity’, were identified as influencing the amount of food losses at the consumer. The result showed that there are potentials to both increase consumer satisfaction and decrease the environmental impact of the food-packaging system, when new packaging design reduces food losses. A model was developed that calculates the balance of environmental impact between reduction of food losses, and more packaging material. The result showed that it can be environmentally motivated to increase the environmental impact of packaging, if the amount of food losses is reduced. This is especially true for food items with high environmental impact, e.g. meat and dairy products, and for food items that have a high share of loss, e.g. bread.I have also explored to what extent packaging can influence food losses in households. The study showed that about 20% to 25% of household food waste was related to packaging. The households noted three packaging attributes as the main causes for food losses; ‘too big packaging’, ‘difficult to empty’ and ‘best-before-date’.Finally there is a discussion of packaging research in the context of sustainability principles, and suggestions for further research.