How better food packaging can help restore the planet


  • The world is currently wasting a third of all the food produced.
  • The food processing and packaging industry can help transform food systems.
  • Food packaging can take many approaches for a more sustainable supply chain.

The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents a code red for our global food systems. Declaring that the global temperature, which rose by 1.1 ° C between 1850-1900, is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 ° C warming, the report warns of the risks of overlap between energy sectors , food and water, creating a dire future for the world’s food supply. systems.

These rising temperatures would reduce global yields of maize, rice and, potentially, other cereal crops, while negatively affecting food quality, the spread of disease, and the availability of water resources for livestock, with each increase. 0.5 ° C being planned to bring more frequency and intensity of agricultural droughts.

Ironically, our global food systems themselves are partly responsible for the current situation, accounting for over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. While the world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, the demand for food continues to grow, but the world is currently wasting a third of the food it produces due to inefficient production and preservation practices due to the lack of infrastructure in developing and developed countries. unsustainable consumption practices.

These glaring inefficiencies reveal a toxic and unsustainable relationship between our global food systems and the planet, amounting to some $ 12 trillion in hidden costs each year, far exceeding the market value of agricultural products.

Solutions without borders

While food production and environmental conservation have always been at odds, only by working together and finding common ground can we enable the global transformation of food systems to better cope with this dangerous cycle.

Global challenges and crises know no borders and require international cooperation and multilateral responses to the problems of the food system. From farmers and processors to packers, distributors and consumers around the world, we need to rethink the way we approach, produce and consume food to join the “planetary health diet”. These shared approaches are particularly critical as the world moves into the era of post-pandemic recovery.

Growing demand for food increases GHG emissions, but much of the food is wasted.

Image: Statista

To face this immense challenge, we need to think strategically and creatively, going beyond existing frameworks to reinvent food production processes and use more sustainable and innovative models.

To show what that might look like in the food processing and packaging industries, here are three solutions focused on more environmentally friendly food systems for the future:

1. Adoption of a low-carbon circular economy

As a global community, we face the challenge of minimizing the environmental impact of packaging while maximizing food safety and protection. Global food players must drive innovation in materials and end-of-life solutions through collaborative approaches, designing processes that reduce or eliminate this carbon footprint.

While recycling is an important part of the solution, it is not enough. Ultimately, the only way to sustainably support the food and nutritional needs of our growing population for generations to come is to embrace a low carbon circular economy.

Throughout human existence, increased consumption and economic growth have led to the depletion of natural resources. The circular economy takes us away from this model for a system where we use the resources that are already in the value chain. The low-carbon circular economy goes even further, also considering the climate impact of raw materials and the manufacturing value chain.

Continuous innovation in the field of packaging and food processing will go beyond recycling to consider the broader, long-term environmental impact of a product.

2. Long-life room solutions that preserve food safety

Global hunger is on the rise, but it is estimated that a third of all the food produced in the world is lost or wasted. Not only does wasted food lead to food insecurity, but it is the first element by volume entering landfills, creating methane and causing 8% of global warming emissions. To mitigate food waste and fight malnutrition in developing countries, packaging solutions that keep food fresher longer are imperative.

Tetra Pak has pioneered aseptic processing and packaging solutions with this in mind, leveraging the sterilization process to extend product shelf life and keep food safe without the need for preservatives or refrigeration. Long-life environmental solutions that maintain food safety not only help reduce carbon footprints, but also reduce food waste and enable food insecure regions to store and access food. Longer.


3. Improve the transparency and traceability of the supply chain

Today’s supply chains are strained and rigid. As global food systems account for over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, an increased focus on transparency and traceability will help deliver safe, nutritious and wholesome food in a sustainable manner, reducing risk operational and increasing the resilience of the supply chain.

From sourcing to manufacturing, transportation and consumption, only with visibility into every step of the supply chain can companies improve their overall sustainability. To give an example, Unilever has done some very promising work in this area using geospatial analysis in its procurement to predict the possibility of problems, such as deforestation, and take action.

Tetra Pak brings this transparency to the packaging and food processing industry with its “connected packaging”. Launched in 2019 and currently exceeding 2 billion, they are each labeled with a unique digital barcode, effectively transforming packages into data carriers. This digitization allows end-to-end traceability for producers, greater transparency of the supply chain for retailers and access to information for consumers.

Two billion people in the world are currently suffering from malnutrition and by some estimates it would take 60% more food to feed the world’s population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of global water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has lagged behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

With research, increased investment in new agricultural technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at improving food security, the platform works with more than 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.


Learn more about the impact of Innovation with a Goal and contact us to see how you can get involved.

Agriculture and food are the fastest way to optimize human health and environmental sustainability. This new IPCC report puts additional pressure on the food industry to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We hope it will mobilize its many potential partnerships and innovations to reform and ultimately save our global food systems.

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