Environmental Trade-offs between Food Packaging and Food Waste: Waste Rate Data Challenges
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 can represent a significant fraction of the fool life cycle's overall environmental burden. This presents an important research and design question: can investments in resources and associated emissions due to improved packaging technologies be justified from an environmental standpoint if they contribute to reductions in food waste? Here we use LCA to demonstrate the trade off in environmental impact between food packaging and food waste for a number of specific case studies in a U.S. context. Emphasis is placed on demonstrating the challenges faced in establishing empirical food waste rate data.