This interview was originally published in our DIG IN Food Report.
Bojana Bajzelj, Technical Expert in International Food Sustainability at WRAP UK (Waste and Resources Action Programme) shares insights on the trade-offs between food packaging and food waste.
Quantis: How can packaging help reduce food waste?
Bojana Bajzelj (BB): Packaging can protect food during handling and transport, and some types of packaging such as MAP (modified atmosphere packaging) can significantly increase shelf life, leading to a reduction in waste in both supply chain and in homes. Good packaging also provides information on storage, serving ideas and correct portioning.
"The number one strategy should be increasing the recyclability of packaging and reducing leakage out of the waste management system and into the environment."
Bojana Bajzelj, Technical Expert in International Food Sustainability at WRAP UK
Quantis: Ocean plastic pollution is a pressing environmental concern. How can food companies balance the advantages of packaging?
BB: The number one strategy should be increasing the recyclability of packaging and reducing leakage out of the waste management system and into the environment. We should also reduce packaging that is unnecessary or excessive. But where packaging provides a service such as reducing food waste, we should consider the environmental benefits.
Quantis: How is WRAP working to shape a sustainable future for food packaging while reducing food waste?
BB: In the UK, we are organizing collaborative initiatives, such as the UK Plastic Pact and Courtauld Commitment 2025. By acting as experts on both reducing packaging pollution and food waste, WRAP can help ensure these objectives are considered jointly and that companies and regulators have access to the best available evidence when making decisions.
WRAP’s work also supports the EMF New Plastics Economy and the Plastics Pact — a network of initiatives bringing together stakeholders at the national and regional level to implement solutions towards a circular economy for plastics — to tackle plastic pollution by ensuring that problematic and unnecessary plastics are designed out; new business models transform the way plastics are used; and all plastics are safely reused, recycled or composted into new packaging and products. We support evidence-based approaches when it comes to issues that are potential trade-offs between increasing plastics packaging and food waste (read WRAP’s Evidence review: Plastic packaging and fresh produce for more).
We also support greater choice in pack sizes so that smaller households can purchase small enough quantities of food to be easily consumed within their shelf life, especially for high-impact items such as meat and dairy. We believe the potential to reduce food waste outweighs the potential increase in packaging. However, the types of products and packaging innovations must be carefully considered.