Plastic packaging failing to prevent food waste, finds study

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A rise in plastic food packaging is failing to reduce Europe’s growing food waste problem, and in some cases may even be fuelling it, according to new research.

The review of available evidence published by Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe, on behalf of the Rethink Plastic Alliance, shows how annual per-capita use of plastic packaging has grown simultaneously with levels of food waste since the 1950s – now at 30kg and 173kg, respectively.

The study also reveals that big retailers are driving food and plastic packaging waste in Europe through practices such as food grading standards and by packaging food in multipacks and small format packs.

The research revealed that 37% of all food sold in the EU is wrapped in plastic – the most widely used packaging material.

Meanwhile, the cost of food waste in the EU is estimated at €143bn (£124.6bn) each year, equivalent to the annual operational budget of the EU.

Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner for Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said: “We already knew that plastic packaging is harming our environment and wildlife – now it appears its role in avoiding food waste may have been over-estimated too.

“The UK government must help stop this pollution crisis by phasing out the vast majority of single-use plastics within five years, as part of an action plan to end the use of all but the most essential plastics.”

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