Impact of Optimized Packaging on Food Waste Prevention Potential among Consumers
Environmental effects of industries and plants
Renewable energy sources
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AbstractFood and plastic waste are cited as major environmental challenges. The function of packaging is often overlooked when considering waste; however, food packaging is indispensable for hygienic protection during transport and distribution within the supply chain. An important way to prevent the premature spoilage of a variety of different food product groups is to use specially optimized packaging systems. These are able to provide a high level of protection and actively extend shelf life. However, even if novel packaging systems theoretically have great potential for waste reduction, it remains uncertain whether they will also be accepted at the consumer level and actually contribute to waste reduction within households. Three different methods were used to clarify consumers’ perceptions of optimized packaging and thus the potential impact on waste generation. General perceptions have been identified by means of quantitative research among 1117 consumers. Precise information on waste generation behavior was obtained by means of food diaries. Consumer simulations were used to analyze the extent to which optimized packaging can actually have a positive effect on food waste generation at the household level. It was found that the functionality of the packaging usually ceases with the consumer. Consumers are only marginally aware of the advantages of food product packaging in the household, and do not perceive the direct connection between packaging, freshness, shelf life, and spoilage as food waste. In general, consumers rarely or never use optimized packaging at home correctly. It could be concluded that consumers’ perceptions of optimized packaging in terms of potential food waste prevention are not pronounced. In summary, it can be stated that in contrast to its use in retail and transport, an optimization of packaging to avoid food waste for later use by the consumer only shows an effect in exceptional cases, or can only be achieved through targeted information campaigns. If this should be a focus topic in the future, either on the political or managerial level, this has to be taken into account.