Guest Column | June 2, 2015

Portion-Control Food Packaging Offers Sustainability Benefits

Bob Lilienfeld, contributing writer

By Bob Lilienfeld, contributing writer

When it comes to portion control, a little more packaging may be better than a little less, according to AMERIPEN, an industry association that researches and offers guidance on packaging sustainability. This is especially true when looking at the bigger picture of overall food waste.

You have probably heard various figures regarding food waste in America. The consensus from the USDA and others is that approximately 40 percent of food production is never consumed. The annual amount of this waste is staggering: 36 million tons, worth $162 billion. Much of this waste is fresh food purchased for home use. For example, the USDA reports that the typical American family throws away up to 40 percent of the fresh fish, meat, and poultry; 51 percent of the dairy products and fruits; and 44 percent of the vegetables it purchases. Significantly, meats and dairy products, especially cheese, are also among the most environmentally intensive to produce, store, and transport.

While there are many reasons for household food waste in the developed world, one factor accounts for about two-thirds of the problem: Spoilage from not being used on time. Reasons include buying more than can be consumed in one sitting, inefficient inventory control and preparation, and lack of product protection.

Throw in the fact that at least 90 percent of the environmental impact of product and package relates to food production, transportation, and storage, and it’s easy to see why packaging plays such a critical role in maintaining a healthy food supply. While most people might agree that packaging helps protect food, few are aware that one of the key ways in which packaging reduces food waste is through portion control.

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