3 Ways Recyclable Packaging Can Reduce Waste in the Food Supply Chain


The food supply chain is big business.  

Globally, the food and beverages market is expected to reach a value of $7,525.7 billion USD by 2023. In the wake of the global pandemic, an increase in home deliveries has accelerated an already growing trend of consumers embracing the convenience of a food supply chain that extends from the farm or kitchen directly to their front doors. Whether shipping to grocery stores or other food retail locations, or supporting this e-commerce boom, the food supply chain plays a critical role in our everyday lives.  

The issue of food waste is a serious one. 

The UNEP estimates that 931 million tonnes of food are wasted every year across the globe, with roughly 570 million tonnes occurring at the household level. With an estimated 25% of US residential food waste due to packaging,  improving food packaging and the logistics of what we eat can have a palpable impact on reducing the amount of food that never fulfills its purpose as nourishment.  


Primary and secondary food packaging that is single use needs to keep food safe, while being safe for health and the environment. When we unwrap our groceries, are we risking our health? It’s possible that chemicals found commonly in food packaging are costing billions of dollars in lost productivity via preventable deaths in the US alone, every year. 

Packaging is also a significant source of plastic pollution. Globally, roughly 42% of all non-fiber plastics ever made have been used in packaging and packaging is responsible for roughly 47% of all plastic waste.  

In order to combat food waste as well as unnecessary plastic waste, businesses can work to develop efficient and green supply chains. Here are three steps to take to achieve that. 

1. Preserve ideal temperature ranges for products through the grocery supply chain. 

Food and beverage items have different temperature needs in order to avoid spoilage and damage, as well as the possible health and sanitary risks associated with bad food. When in transit, the cold chain refers to the food packaging and cooling solutions that insulate products to within their ideal temperature range. 

While the cold chain can be divided up into the 4 categories below, for the large majority of home deliveries, items will fall into the first three categories of room temperature, chilled, and frozen items. Package engineers can test using simulated conditions to determine the ideal package configurations to keep products within their temperature range over the amount of time they spend in transit. 

Cold Chart

2. Give food items adequate physical protection. 

When packing food and beverage items for delivery from the warehouse, production facility, or to a customer’s home, temperature is only one consideration. Physical damage needs to be mitigated as well; an 80 cm drop height is typical for packed products with a weight up to 10 kg, with flat bottom collisions occurring in 70% of all drop-related shipping accidents. These flat bottom drops are also usually the most devastating to packed products. Cushioning and void fill are typically used to help protect products in transit.  

In the case of the cold chain, void fill can also help to keep products cooler by limiting the process of convection. Put simply, convection moves heat between two objects through transferring via moving fluid or gas. When void fill material is taking up extra space in a package, air (gas) is given less space, and the process of convection heating is slowed down.  


3. Adopt environmentally friendly, recyclable, and sustainable food packaging.  

While EPS, or expanded polystyrene, is the subject of bans and phase-out programs for specific applications across cities and countries including New YorkAustralia, and the EU, it is still common in many areas as secondary packaging for food shipments in the cold chain. While EPS has strong insulating properties, it’s a common misconception that plastic based materials are required to keep products cool. In fact, Ranpak’s paper packaging solutions include cold chain applications ideally suited for protecting grocery and meal kit deliveries.  

Cold Packaging Testing

Within this testing chart, two layers of 100% recyclable, sustainable paper WrapPak® material was shown to keep products cool and below a chilled temperature threshold within a margin of 4 hours performance time compared to EPS boxes, surpassing the 24-hour transit time common to most home grocery deliveries.  

Learn more about how you can create a green supply chain by using eco-friendly food packaging for in-the-box protection and cold chain with WrapPak®! 

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