Sustainable Christmas: is it possible to avoid the problem of food waste?

22 December 2021 News
Sustainable Christmas: is it possible to avoid the problem of food waste? cover

Christmas turns out to be, in addition to a moment of family gathering and conviviality, a great economic booster on which many companies and businesses are based. In the food industry, the Christmas period is of great importance, it is considered a “high season” period. The supermarkets begin to fill the shelves with typical products of the local tradition, products that are the result of months of preparation for this period of the brands in the Food & Beverage sector. The industrial production for the Christmas season starts in many cases in August and this allows the products to be distributed and present in supermarkets as early as November. The great impact of Christmas on the economy of the food sector has also direct connection on the environment, but unfortunately not with a positive implication.

But let’s try to go in order, because before diving into the subject of food waste during Christmas, it is important to make an overview of food waste in general and what it generates every year both economically and environmentally.

Overview of the problem of food waste

In developed countries, food waste has always been a marginal issue, both politically, economically and personally. Fortunately, in recent times, there has been a trend reversal, with the theme of sustainability being embraced by more and more people and organizations. Despite this, food waste continues to be widespread around the world.

According to the FAO study “Food wastage footprint: Impact on natural resources”, the volume of food wasted globally per year is estimated to be 1.6 billion tons. The pollution in the form of greenhouse gases, produced by these waste abandoned in landfills, would be 3.3 billion tons per year: a United Nations report of this year shows, in fact, that about 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions is associated with food that is not consumed. Not to mention the waste of upstream activities, namely the cultivation, collection, transformation and transport of food raw materials.

An uneaten food incorporates a much greater waste than its simple waste impact, just think of the waste of water related to it: the total annual volume of water used for the production of food, then wasted, is equivalent to the annual flow of the river Volga, Russia, or, the waste of “land”, which is around 1.4 billion hectares. About 28% of the world’s agricultural land is used annually to produce food that will go to waste.

The Christmas period increase everything, forcing families to buy and cook more, with the consequence of greater waste, and food companies to produce more in view of food greater demand, with the consequence of huge amount of food waste linked to production and post-holiday unsold goods.

Food waste at Christmas

During the month of December, food consumption increases a lot and becomes more specific. Every country in the world has its “inevitable” products, that is, those products that every family will buy and eat during the holidays, and each country has a different type of waste, anyway still high. Let’s analyse what happens in Italy and in the United Kingdom, for example, that are two very different countries in terms of Christmas traditions.

  • In Italy, about 500 thousand tons of food are wasted during the Christmas period (source: Il Messaggero).
  • In UK we have a less precise but still noteworthy figure. Every Christmas in UK about 2 million turkeys, 5 million puddings (the famous Christmas Puddings of the Anglo-Saxon tradition) and 75 million traditional sweets are thrown away (source The Guardian).

Despite cultural diversity, the amount of wasted food during the Christmas period is very high in both States.

If we then focus on the waste generated by industry in this holiday period, things get even worse. Much of the food waste at Christmas comes from production waste and unsold products after the holidays, not just from households. A solution to this kind of waste, much less known in the media, is that of the depackaging technology.

A solution for companies, and for the planet

During the production process, the obstacles can be different and they can give life to products not suitable for being sold. The causes range from incorrect labelling to incorrect packaging, but the result is always the same: the birth of packaged waste products.

These products were managed mainly following two paths: that of the landfill, resulting in an increase in the volume of complex waste and pollution resulting from it, or that of the de-packaging operated manually, with an increase in management costs charged to the company.

With the depackaging technology developed by Tecnofer, a new path has been created capable of bringing environmental and economic benefits. With a solution such as Tecnofer Depackaging, it is possible to divide the packaging from the product inside allowing an efficient, and above all, sustainable disposal. The separated materials, that is the packaging and the food inside, can be both recovered: the first one through recycling, the second one with the valorisation and use in sectors such as feed or renewable energy.

In conclusion

The problem of food waste at Christmas is a topic that affects everyone: industry, consumers and environment. Damage control is possible, with the cooperation of all. On the one hand, the consumer should try to make more sensible and sustainable choices, avoiding the purchase of excessive quantities of food. On the other hand, companies should adopt more sustainable practices and invest in a circular economy based business model.