Report urges ‘small changes’ in food packaging


Picture credit: WRAP

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has called on food and packaging organisations and consumers to make ‘small changes’ in their behaviour and use of food packaging to help reduce the approximate 60 per cent of household food waste that is ‘not used in time.’

The ‘Consumer Attitudes to Food Waste and Food Packaging’ report released by WRAP today (5 March) – in partnership with the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN), The Packaging Federation (TPF), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Kent Waste Partnership (KWP) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – builds on previous research suggesting that throwing away food as a result of it not being used in time is costing UK consumers £6.7 billion a year (or £270 per household).

The report suggests that negative attitudes towards packaging and its impact on the environment, lack of information on packaging, and a lack of consumer awareness about the use of packaging in helping to keep food fresh, could all be a barrier to reducing the amount of food thrown away.

WRAP says it seeks to explore these attitudes to, and behaviours around, food waste and food packaging and ’highlight a number of simple solutions for consumers, local authorities and the food and packaging industry to help reduce food waste in the home’.

Key Findings

According to the report, consumers’ negative views on packaging and its impact on the environment outweigh their positive knowledge about packaging helping to keep food fresh: only 13 per cent felt ‘packaging had a role in protecting food in the home’ whereas 50 per cent thought packaging was ‘bad for the environment.’

Other findings from the report included:

  • consumer confidence around storing food is high, however only 22 per cent currently look at storage guidance on pack;
  • almost half of consumers (46 per cent) recognise that food retailers and manufacturers have made progress in recent years to reduce the amount of packaging; and
  • attitudes to packaging ‘shift according to the context and the mind set that consumers are in.’

Key Suggestions

One of the key recommendations proposed by the report to help reduce food waste is for consumers to ‘make more use of the information provided on packaging’ in terms of how to store specific food types to help keep food ‘fresher for longer’.

In order for food packaging to provide correct and helpful information the report also suggests that food and packaging organisations should ‘consider whether they can do more to inform customers about the innovations they are making around food labelling and packaging, to raise awareness of the benefits and encourage consumers to make use of these, and undertake further innovation’.

Other recommendations listed in the WRAP report include:

  • raising awareness of the benefits of reducing food waste and the role that packaging can play through consumer campaigns, such as ‘Love Food Hate Waste’;
  • producing campaigns to provide advice to consumers about food packaging, such as pack size and labelling, and to offer updated guidance around the best way to buy food with the appropriate packaging; and
  • seeing continued innovation in packaging recyclability along with increased provision of recycling services, and clear communication on how to use them.

The report also supports the Love Food Hate Waste campaign ‘Fresher for longer’ in striving to achieve some of the recommendations outlined.

‘Ends the demonisation of packaging’

Speaking on the release of the report Director of Design and Waste Prevention at WRAP, Richard Swannell, said: “Food waste is an enormous problem that needs tackling throughout the whole supply chain. With 7.2 million tonnes of waste occurring in the home, our latest report has investigated consumer awareness around packaging, and how storing food effectively can help reduce that waste.

“By working with companies and industry bodies, we can help consumers to take advantage of recent innovations and keep food fresher for longer.”

Representatives from partner organisations also welcomed the release of the report with Dick Searle, speaking on behalf on TPF saying it “will help us all to reduce food waste”.

Alice Ellison, of the BRC, added: “I hope this research helps to end the demonisation of packaging. We have long said that appropriate use of packaging preserves food and reduces waste. Grocery retailers have already achieved notable reductions in food and packaging waste through working with WRAP on the Courtauld Commitment targets and the Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

 “This report should stimulate further reductions in food waste by promoting the role that packaging plays in keeping food fresher for longer in the home.”

Read ‘Consumer Attitudes to Food Waste and Food Packaging’ Report or learn more about the role of food packaging.