Food waste – the dilemma between packaging functionality and sustainability in this hidden problem

Responsible food packaging can help navigate challenging decisions

Packaging and sustainability are often presented as opposing forces in much of the press coverage we see and read about the environmental challenges confronting us with waste. However, the reality is, this relationship is far more nuanced and intertwined, where a balanced use of responsible packaging actually advances sustainability through its key role in reducing food waste.

Our aim is to give you information on packaging that can be married with your own information and experiences with your products, customers, goals, and how you define sustainability in your business. Being informed will empower you to make packaging choices that are right for you.

Packaging’s role in reducing food waste is arguably under reported. With this article, Bonson hopes to stimulate your interest enough that it encourages you to do further reading on the role packaging plays in reducing food waste. Let us know if we can help point you in the right direction with references or resources that can help you find the answers that will lead you to choosing the packaging that is right for you. As well as giving you information, Bonson provides choice. We have wide range of packaging solutions in a diverse range of materials, including customisation to address your concerns around preventing food waste according to the nature of your particular product(s).

Food waste is a global crisis and harms the environment

Here is a basic explanation of why food waste is so bad for our environment… when food ends up in landfill, it releases a large amount of methane in the process of decomposition. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, even more powerful than CO2. To put that in perspective, if food waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter². The energy and resources that are used along the supply chain are also wasted when food turns into waste.

Some facts in New Zealand

  • New Zealanders bin about one third of their food every year³, creating a massive emissions problem in landfills
  • The cost of food waste is huge – estimated as costing $1.17 billion to buy the wasted food per year according to an Auckland University of Technology senior lecturer³
  • This wastage is predominantly happening in homes, with the average New Zealand household throwing away about $644 worth of food every year³
  • Studies that were repeated in 2018 after initial research in 2013 showed that although awareness around food waste has grown, there is still the general perception that people don’t waste a lot of food¹

All of this underlines that there hasn’t been enough attention on the food waste problem and addressing the attitudes and behaviors that lead to food waste. Over the last several years a national food waste prevention project and campaign (Love Food Hate Waste) has been underway, providing some great tips for consumers that are similar to those highlighted below. International research experts say that continued education on the topic of food waste will make a difference in the long run, however there is one tip that WE have added because it seems to be glaringly missing – use appropriate packaging to reduce food waste.

What is ‘appropriate’ food packaging to prevent food waste?

Appropriate packaging is packaging that is fit for purpose, including keeping food safe, as well as:

  • Increases shelf life
  • Decreases food waste
  • Decreases food damage

Responsible food packaging design and size is usually created with these three responsibilities above in mind. This includes the use of barriers (odour, fat/oils, oxygen, UV light and moisture) that will reduce the need for preservatives in food and in some cases, helping to save on energy costs and improve consumer health. In addition, packaging can keep contaminants away from food and this safety aspect has become an even more important factor in light of Covid-19.

The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) says that on average, the resources used for packaging saves ten times more resources of the products it protects.

When you take everything into account, it’s easy to see that there is more than one side of the story about packaging and sustainability. We hope this article has helped spark your interest in learning more about how you can best achieve harmony between functionality and sustainability with your products and view packaging as a tool to achieve your goals, including food waste reduction.



Some tips for the Food Service sector to help with reducing food waste

To reduce food waste, changes have to be implemented at every stage of the process – from farmers and food processors to retailers and individual customers. Here are some tips to start reducing food waste within the food service sector today:

  • Practice good stock and food storage control
  • Be smart about serving sizes
  • Track your food usage and waste to identify opportunities for improvement
  • Predict your demand patterns
  • Have a plan for excess food

And of course, last, but not least – use appropriate packaging to reduce food waste, including choosing the right type of packaging material.



  1. WasteMINZ. (n.d.). National Food Waste Prevention Project.
  2. Love Food Hate Waste. (n.d.). The Glocal Issue of Food Waste.
  3. Amber. W (2020). Stuff NZ. The world’s ‘tragically high’ food waste problem is worse than previously thought.
  4. Trayak. (n.d.). Shelf Life, Food Waste, and Sustainability.