CHICAGO — According to the World Packaging Organization (WPO), global food waste impacts a third of all food production. At Pack Expo International, taking place Oct. 23-26 in Chicago, Pierre Pienaar, president of WPO addressed packaging’s role in reducing food waste around the world through its Save Food Packaging initiative.

While most consumers typically see food production from a “farm to plate” perspective, understanding — and solving — food waste requires a deeper look at the chain.

“Are we wasting food from the farm to the processing or from the processing to the plate?” Pienaar suggested.

WPO found that the answer depends on the region. In developed countries, for instance, food waste more commonly occurs from processing to plate.

In emerging markets such as developing countries, it’s happening between the farm and the process, which is where WPO is focusing its attention. It’s currently sharing its expertise in areas including Central and West Africa and already seeing results.


“Are we wasting food from the farm to the processing, or from the processing to the plate?” — Pierre Pienaar | president | World Packaging Organization


The organization has found that packaging plays a vital role in reducing food waste.

“If you get the packaging correct, it can automatically — and to a large extent — fix a lot of pockets,” Pienaar said. “From a WPO perspective, we need to bring the message across about packaging.”

Primarily, the common factor between food waste and packaging is population, the most important aspect that impacts both the amount of packaging and food produced.

Food safety is another important factor in controlling food waste, especially for emerging markets and developing countries.

“In developed countries, especially in the US, food is generally safe,” Pienaar said. “But we have to think of those folks in emerging markets and ensure that we have packaging that keeps their food safe. We have a responsibility to each and every person in those countries to have safe food — there’s a dire need for it.”

WPO is bringing several developing countries into the fold including Chile, Mongolia, Morocco, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, the Ivory Coast and more.

“We in the packaging industry are at a crossroads,” Pienaar said. “It’s really in our hands in how we map the path over the next five years. It’s my prediction that in the next five years we’ll be able to influence future generations.”