The Role of Packaging Choices in Grocery Waste Reduction

Canada, known for its stunning scenery and environmental landscapes, unfortunately produces 36.1 metric tons of waste per person. This puts Canada as the top waste producer globally as of 2019, and a considerable percentage of it is single-use plastics.

Every year, Canadians generate over 6 million tons of plastic waste. Factors like misleading recycling labels, lack of proper disposal systems and consumer awareness all contribute to the rising amounts of plastic waste. Food waste also a significant contributor to Canada’s waste problem. Fortunately, protecting the environment is becoming more and more important to Canadian consumers. They’re looking for ways to reduce the amount of waste they produce and to recycle as much of it as possible.

So, what can food retailers do to meet increasing consumer demand for more sustainable products?

Innovative Food Packaging

A key step to improving sustainability is the adoption of fit-for-purpose food packaging made from responsibly sourced materials. This not only reduces environmental impact but extends shelf life. Up to 25% of Canada’s food waste is linked to inefficient packaging that leads spoilage or challenges in managing portions. Addressing these packaging issues alone could help divert 280,000 tons of food waste annually.

Manufacturers now offer a wide range of sustainable food packaging alternatives that use innovative materials to create new substrates.

Material Selection: Choose biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable materials like cardboard or compostable plastics. For direct food contact, select packaging with a high percentage of Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) content, which offers both sustainability and reliability.

Functional Design: Opt for designs that enhance food preservation and minimize waste, such as portion-controlled or resealable options. Ensuring fit-for-purpose is essential, such as using heat-retentive containers for hot foods.

It’s important to work closely with a supplier that understands Canadian packaging legislation and has global sourcing capability to ensure the latest product innovations are compliant, and available to you on a continual basis.

Smart Waste Management

Implementing a more sustainable waste management program includes both product selection and process:

Recycled Materials: Use garbage bags made from a combination of recycled material and virgin plastics to reduce demand for virgin plastics and overall plastic waste. Consider selecting high-density bags, which are designed to be thinner yet provide greater durability than regular garbage bags using less plastic.

Proper Disposal: Educate both employees and customers on correct recycling practices and set up clearly marked bins throughout the facility. This can be supported by signage, employee training and proper labelling to ensure the waste is correctly sorted. Review local composting systems to ensure any unavoidable food waste is appropriately processed.

Making more sustainable practices a priority in your facility? Contact us or reach out to your local Bunzl Grocery/Retail/Processor representative and ask about our proprietary Material Footprint Tool to assess your current packaging assortment and map each item to a more sustainable alternative.