LCA XV is this year's key Life Cycle Assessment conference in North America. An event not to be missed, with over 300 professionals from the fields of academia, research institutes, policy makers, government and industry.
Educational courses and student workshop to take place on Monday October 5th.
Thursday, October 8 -- Session 13D: Food Industry 3
Martin Heller and Gregory Keoleian
Demonstration of the Environmental Interplay between Food Waste and Food Packaging via Life Cycle Assessment ( abstract )
ABSTRACT. Food packaging has long served a role in protecting and preserving both perishable and shelf-stable foods, but sustainability efforts aimed at reducing the environmental impact of packaging often overlook this critical role. Food waste – food which is produced but not eaten – can represent a significant fraction of the food life cycle’s overall environmental burden. This presents an important research question: are investments in resources and associated emissions due to increased or improved packaging technologies beneficial from an environmental standpoint if they contribute to reductions in food waste? Using an LCA model developed with specific attention to food waste effects, we will evaluate a number of alternative food packaging scenarios for three cases: fresh beef, fresh and frozen fish, and salad mixes. The functional unit will be a mass of food consumed. While food waste throughout the supply chain will be considered, the differentiation between scenarios will focus on waste during distribution and retail, drawing from empirical data from food retailers and industry representatives. Preliminary results suggest that modified atmosphere packaging of fresh beef leads to net greenhouse gas emission (GHGE) savings due to food waste reductions, when compared to common tray and overwrap packaging. On the other hand, while modified atmosphere bagging of salad mix reduces food waste, it is not sufficient to overcome the GHGE from manufacturing of the packaging. Including water use impacts in the salad mix case further demonstrates the complexity of food waste/food packaging trade-offs. Demonstration of the interplay between packaging and food waste can assist designers in redefining packaging sustainability optimization strategies to include the whole product/package system. The results presented here also highlight the important role that packaging plays in reducing food waste.