The global packaging industry has a crucial role to play in the food products supply chain and in the transportation and distribution of products worldwide but people need to become aware of what the industry is actually doing, said the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) and packaging company LINPAC, in response to a recent report on the staggering amount of food waste, Food Production Daily reports.

The report from the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers, called "Global Food Waste Not Want Not," claims that between 1.2 and 2 billion tons out of the 4 billion tons of food products that are manufactured annually are wasted. Consumers themselves throw away between 30% and 50% of the food they buy. According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the main reasons behind the food waste problem are inadequate transport, poor storage infrastructure and strict deadlines by which products need to be sold. Other aspects of modern markets, such as buy-one-get-one-free offers that make consumers buy things they do not really need, and increased consumer demand in terms of quality, only add to the problem, the report states.

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In light of the findings in the report, Jane Bickerstaffe, director of INCPEN, told Food Production Daily that researchers at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers have exposed the problem but do not offer a solution. It is important that people understand the role of packaging in the supply chain, she commented. Packaging is an industry which constantly innovates and improves to offer better value. Some packaging is recycled, some is burned for energy but it is key for the whole supply chain, she claimed.

Bickerstaffe points out that packaging is essential for developing countries, as it can boost income from production. Developing markets need sophisticated packaging along with the basic products, to make sure that the products are not damaged during the production process, she says.

Her views are backed by Alan Davey, director of innovation at LINPAC Packaging, who tells Food Production Daily that the report clearly shows how important a role packaging has to play when trying to find a solution to the waste problem. He believes that food manufacturers, packaging companies and retailers need to work together to overcome the problem. He went on to say that if packaging was invented today, many people would claim it was one of the most environmentally responsible technologies because in fact it protects and preserves food products.