Research from Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) has found a rise in plastic food packaging is failing to decrease Europe’s expanding food waste problem, and in some cases could be the main cause.
The study found that retailers are driving food and plastic packaging waste in Europe through food grading standards, and packaging food in multipacks and small packs, with one study showing that chopping green beans to fit plastic packaging resulted in 30-40% of the beans being wasted.
It also discovered that the most widely used packaging material in the EU is plastic, with 37% of all food sold in the EU being wrapped in this material.
According to FoEE, the cost of food waste in the EU is estimated at €143 billion annually, equivalent to the yearly operational budget of the EU.
FoEE resource justice campaigner Meadhbh Bolger said: “The results are in: wrapping, bottling and packing food in plastic doesn’t systemically prevent food waste, and sometimes even causes it. It’s a red herring that’s causing terrible pollution of our land, sea and air.
“EU decision-makers need to listen to the growing public appetite to quit plastics, help Europe lead in adopting strict rules to limit throwaway plastics, and shift to localised food systems without disposable packaging.”
The study has also highlighted how the environmental damage caused by plastics can be underestimated when creating policies which impact food packaging, including some of the new measures being developed by the European Commission to fight plastic pollution, said FoEE.
Zero Waste Europe sustainable products campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo said: “The packaging industry and the European Commission are not practicing sound decision making when it comes to food packaging. Their methodology, which often ignore the impacts of plastic waste, result in conclusions that favour complex food packs which are impossible to reuse or recycle. The result is the promotion of plastic packaging designed for landfill and incineration.”