Robust packaging prevents loss of produce and food waste.
Food loss is a waste, and is becoming more and more unnecessary. Fortunately, consumers, supermarkets and restaurants have increasingly been doing their best to avoid throwing food produce away, for example, through the use of convenient apps and ‘giveaway’ solutions. Additionally, partners in the logistics chain are now turning their attentions to this issue. Fruit and vegetables travel a long way before they arrive on your plate and robust and reusable packaging is the best way to prevent damage in the supply chain.
Reusable plastic containers are among the most widely used packaging in fresh food logistics in Europe. The folding and rigid crates define the image of the fresh food shelf in many supermarkets. This is hardly surprising, because reusable packaging is durable and offers fresh produce optimal protection during transport. That is one of the main reasons, together with ease of use, for choosing this packaging. What customers experience every day confirms the findings of researchers at several universities worldwide. Their conclusion is that the use of reusable packaging causes less product loss than use of cardboard packaging.
Scientists from the German Fraunhofer Institute for material flows and logistics and the University of Bonn monitored fruit and vegetables from the producer to the shops. As much as 4.2% of the fruit and vegetables in cardboard packaging was damaged during transport to consumers. The main reason for this was that the packaging is not sufficiently stable, causing the produce to become damaged. In returnable plastic containers, the rate of loss was only 0.12% (see Figure 1: Comparison of loss ratios). The high strength and optimum stack-ability ensured that almost all the produce reached the shop undamaged.
Although these percentages seem small, the impact is huge. The researchers for the German market calculated that damage to fruit and vegetables through the use of cardboard packaging results in waste worth € 68 million per year. The equivalent damage with plastic packaging only comes out at € 2 million.
An American report (A Comparison of Corrugated Boxes and Reusable Plastic Containers for Mango Distribution) from Kasetsart and Michigan State Universities reaches a similar conclusion to the German study. In one experiment, the researchers compared cardboard boxes and plastic crates for mango distribution. After shipping, mangoes proved better preserved in the reusable packaging with the mangoes in layers, than in cardboard boxes. The studies confirm what users already know: that with proper packaging, loss of produce in the supply chain can be kept to a minimum. That is good news for everybody trying to avoid food waste.