Europe has a growing food waste problem.

According to a recent study from the Institute for European Environmental Policy for Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe, that food waste problem may be due to the rise of plastic food packaging.

The report identified four major problems that result from plastic food packaging, while also offering up some potential solutions for each of them. These include:

  • Over-packaging. Packaging can in fact help reduce food waste. Unfortunately, many manufacturers resort to over-packaging as a marketing tool, which creates a lot of waste in the European economy. To solve this problem, the study recommends encouraging manufacturers to switch to reusable packaging and package-free retail, among other suggestions.

 

  • Short food supply chains. Farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture programs connect consumers directly to the folks who grow and sell food items—reducing food and packaging waste. Unfortunately, only 15% of European farms sell directly to consumers. This problem could be remedied by shortening food supply chains and trying to increase the number of folks who buy directly from farms.

 

  • Package-free retail. In the European food market, millions of tons of plastic packaging are used each year; 37% of all food that’s sold is packaged in plastic. Forward-thinking retailers and innovators are increasingly moving to “package-free retail”—and moving away from single-use plastic containers.

 

  • The shortcoming of Life-Cycle Assessments (LCAs). While LCAs can help gauge some environmental impacts, they fall short in other areas (e.g., determining environmental leakage or chemical migration). As such, LCAs should be one of several tools used to help reduce waste. For example, by combining LCAs with the knowledge of food waste drivers, better insights can be uncovered.

For more information on the study—or to read the read the report in full—head over to Friends of the Earth Europe’s website.