24 July 2017
Food waste remains an issue with major implications. It impacts food security and the health of our planet. Reducing food waste secures food availability to our growing population and has a positive environmental impact by preserving natural resources and minimizing carbon emissions related to the waste. According to the USDA, an estimated 30 to 40 percent of food ends up as waste at the hands of consumers and retailers in the U.S. Other countries face similar statistics, while 795 million people around the world are undernourished.
Waste occurs across the many stages of the value chain — including food production, processing and distribution. We all have a role to play in helping reduce food waste. As a food and beverage processing and packaging solutions provider, Tetra Pak looks for new sustainable ways to reduce waste and make safe, nutritious food available everywhere.
It starts on the farm
Reducing food losses and food waste starts at the harvesting stage: on-site training and manufacturing equipment can help farmers to minimize produce spoilage, sustaining a high-quality harvest that can be processed into nutritious food.
Tetra Pak’s Dairy Hub initiative supports small, local farmers in places such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Nicaragua to develop their business by empowering them with training and modern methods to increase their yields and improve milk quality. Through the Hub, farmers are linked with a dedicated food processor so they can deliver safe, nutritious milk to their local communities.
These farmers also have the opportunity to learn about modern animal husbandry techniques from the Dairy Hub — techniques that have an immediate payoff by improving productivity and increasing capacity.
Reducing waste during manufacturing
One of the main causes of food waste in processing is inefficient plant design.
In the U.S. dairy industry, milk losses can average 2 to 3 percent from the time the raw milk enters the factory to when the finished product is packaged and shipped. This adds up to approximately 1.4 billion pounds of milk per year, and that number more than doubles if it includes cheese production.
Cleaning frequency of food processing equipment can help reduce food waste. Some large-scale equipment needs frequent cleaning, during which product is lost. Plants that process a wide range of products may also see more losses as the result of product changeover. One solution is choosing equipment designed to run longer in between cleanings, as well as automation solutions that safely minimize the water/product interface in preparation for cleaning and for production.
The other aspect impacting product waste is the design of processing plants; efficient designs are compact with minimum piping and flexible equipment that can fulfill more than one function. One example is the Tetra Pak OneStep technology that significantly cuts processing time — and the loss associated with it — by giving processors the ability to change fat contents more quickly.
Finally, hygienic, innovative food processing equipment prevents the risk of foreign body contamination and ensures that minimal food is wasted through leaks or spoilage.
Packaging plays a role
From the packaging material to the size, packaging is crucial to protecting food and beverages from spoilage and physical damage, and making sure the consumer has just the right amount of it.
Aseptic packages work to protect food so it remains safe and nutritious throughout its shelf life. They can be stored up to 12 months without the need for refrigeration or added preservatives. This technology offers substantial benefits during the distribution and retail stages of the food value chain, which are known to be a significant source of losses, especially for perishable or low turnover products.
Another way packaging can help is through “right sizing” — giving consumers just the size they need, reducing waste due to spoilage.
From farm to factory, the food and beverage industry has an opportunity to make a positive impact on food waste by adopting best practices and streamlining their operations.
To learn more about how Tetra Pak solutions can help you reduce food waste, please click here.
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