EREF Announces Food Waste and Packaging Sustainability Study with AMERIPEN and Michigan State University

Raleigh, NC The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) today announced a new sustainability-driven project, partnered with AMERIPEN (the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment) and Michigan State University, that focuses on the consumer relationship between packaging and food waste.

The objective of this research will be to collect data and gain an understanding of the relationship between packaging and household food waste. It will explore how consumers use packaging in the home before and after food waste measurement. It will analyze the research findings and identify where more information is needed to recommend potential solutions to leverage the value of packaging to decrease household consumer food waste. 

“Human behavior is one of the largest factors that impacts waste generation and disposal. Food packaging design and functionality are critical elements that shape consumer perception of how food is managed inside the household. That perception can be a driving factor in subsequent behaviors that influence the amount of food waste generated. It is critical to increase our understanding of the interaction between perception, food packaging and food waste generation so we may better equip consumers and manufacturers alike in our quest to reduce food waste,” said Bryan Staley, PhD, President and CEO of EREF. “EREF is proud to partner with AMERIPEN and Michigan State University to conduct this study and focus on the intersection between food packaging and a more sustainable future for our environment.”

 “We are thrilled to be working with two highly respected academic organizations in the fields of packaging and waste to help bring a level of scientific rigor and data integrity to this effort notes Dan Felton, Executive Director at AMERIPEN. “In 2016 ReFED identified packaging as a key instrument in reducing food waste within North America. A Swedish study estimated 25% of household food waste could be reduced by improving the consumer relationship with packaging—either because the consumer removes products from packaging upon arrival home, they fail to properly seal packaging or packaging is inadequately designed to help them reduce waste. By better quantifying the relationship between consumers, packaging and household food waste, we believe we can help inform strategies to reduce wasted food and the subsequent greenhouse gas emission resulting from this loss. The promise of this collaborative provides an opportunity not only to collect much needed scientific data, but also to leverage insights from this data into meaningful action and change.”

“Wasted food is a growing problem. Packaging can contribute to reducing food waste and consequently, to alleviating the environmental and economic impacts of the wasted food. Although a significant amount of food is wasted at the consumer level, little is known about consumers’ perceptions and awareness of packaging in reducing food waste. Furthermore, literature lacks information on how these perceptions and awareness can differ among population segments.  An online survey questionnaire will be designed to collect insight into consumers’ behavior, perceptions, and awareness as well as to quantify food waste. The collected information will fill current gaps of knowledge about the interactions between packaging and household food waste. A better understanding of packaging’s impact on household food waste could lead to packaging changes to mitigate food waste.” said Dr. Eva Almenar, Professor at the School of Packaging and Project Director. Dr. Matt Daum, School of Packaging Director, agrees and adds: “The MSU Team, Drs. Eva Almenar, Monireh Mahmoud, Euihark Lee and MS student Korey Fennell, are excited to partner with EREF and AMERIPEN to conduct this consumer study that may contribute to creating more suitable packaging to reduce food waste. It is important to take a people-centric approach to research before designing technical solutions. Food waste is a complicated and multi-faceted issue, so this consumer study is an important element for long-range solutions.”