We caught up with James D. Downham, president & CEO, PAC Packaging Consortium (the organization recently changed its name from PAC The Packaging Associations), who attended a meeting of the Packaging Association’s Food Waste Forum last week in Rochester, NY, hosted by the Rochester Institute of Technology. Downham and Ron Cotterman, vice president of sustainability, Sealed Air Corp., were featured speakers. They discussed the PAC Food Waste initiative, a global effort to investigate waste in the supply chain and identify packaging opportunities for innovation, to determine ways to extend product shelf life and to educate the broader community about its role in preventing food waste.
The Packaging Association was established in 1950, initially based in Canada, but has since expanded and serves packaging industry corporations and professionals in North America. The association’s PAC Food Waste initiative was created in response to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The organization estimated that to ensure the world’s population can be fed, food production must increase by 66 percent. But along the supply chain—the path from farm to market to consumer—more than 33 percent of food produced is lost or wasted. To date, more than 30 organizations across the supply chain have committed to PAC Food Waste and to finding solutions to the impact of food waste on individuals, the environment and economy.
What is the status of the PAC Food Waste (PFW) initiative?
Downham: PFW is a North American packaging initiative and includes more than 30 organizations across the supply chain including Loblaw, Sobeys, McDonalds, Nestle, General Mills, Molson Coors, Sealed Air, DuPont and Dow. Three industry co-chairs have stepped up to lead including Cotterman; Yasmin Siddiqui, global marketing manager, packaging, DuPont; and Scott Tudor, director of sustainability, Sobeys.
We have aligned PFW with the U.S.-based Food Waste Reduction Alliance (formed by the GMA, FMI and National Restaurant Association). One of the reasons we were in Rochester was to meet and present the PFW initiative to the leaders of the FWRA. On a global scale we have joined Save Food, an initiative that originated in 2011 by partners Messe Düsseldorf and the FAO. We are also engaged in discussions with the Consumer Goods Forum.
What role does or can packaging play in these efforts?
Downham: Extending shelf life of products through active and intelligent packaging, innovative barrier technological breakthroughs are some examples of where packaging can help. Some products need to be packaged, i.e. fruits and vegetables, to extend shelf life; some products need to be repackaged once opened are others. Sell by and buy before labeling needs to be modified and improved upon along with a better understanding of what this means.
Can you share any best practices from members?
Downham: One of our projects is to identify global case studies and populate them into a PFW portal. Our work is just being launched, however, there are numerous examples to draw from:
• It is well documented that wrapping cucumbers in PE extends the shelf life of the cucumber from 4 days to 12 days on average.
• Tesco has just completed a study trialing a new type of plastic egg packaging that estimates it will save on average more than one million eggs each year. The packaging is recyclable and is made from old plastic bottles.
• Lassonde ready-to-eat Sunbites Corn on the Cob is in a vacuum packed pouch with a 1 year shelf life. The corn is pre-cooked and packaged in a high performance advanced barrier film.
These food waste reduction initiatives as a result of packaging innovation and applications have enormous positive social and economic benefits and all things environmental such as water reduction, arable land use, transportation and energy and therefore GHG emissions.
What’s upcoming for this initiative in 2014?
Downham: The launch of three key projects and a call to action of the broader packaging supply chain. If the triple bottom line is important to your organization then you need to be part of the solution and not contributing to the problem. Don’t sit on the sidelines.
Three inaugural PAC FOOD WASTE Projects include:
• A project designed to identify and build an inventory of global packaging case studies for food waste reduction. Construct a PAC FOOD WASTE web portal containing a searchable database of global case studies on reducing food waste.
• This project is to initiate an LCA study on single-serve coffee to create synergy with PAC NEXT and for better understanding of the relationships between North American packaging and causes of food waste along the food value chain.
•This project is designed to develop a who’s who of companies, organizations, associations engaged in packaging and food waste.
For more information contact:
James D. Downham, PAC Packaging Consortium, president & CEO