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Adhesives Help Prevent Food Waste

Worldwide, an astonishing amount of food – about one-third – is wasted or lost each year. That’s enough food to feed everyone on the planet. Although there’s been some awareness of the problem for decades, more attention is being paid to the issue and potential solutions.

Reflecting the rising concern about food waste, the World Packaging Organisation has added a SAVE FOOD Packaging Award category to its WorldStar Awards competition, which judges winners of national packaging competitions. The first award in this category will be presented next year at interpack, the triennial packaging trade fair (May 4-10, 2017, at Messe Düsseldorfin Düsseldorf, Germany). The entries in the SAVE FOOD category will be exhibited at the “innovationparc,” an area on the trade fair grounds devoted to topics associated with SAVE FOOD, a joint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Environment Programme, Messe Düsseldorf and interpack.

It’s likely many of the entries in the SAVE FOOD Packaging Award category will involve sealed packaging since sealing can help reduce losses and food waste by providing a barrier to factors that lead to waste such as damage or spoilage due to exposure to oxygen, light, unsuitable temperatures, moisture, microbes and vermin. Unfortunately, only about 50 percent of U.S. consumers understand the role packaging plays in preventing food loss and waste, according to a 2015 survey, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, Washington, DC.

“…we must raise awareness of the negative impacts of wasted food and the positive role lightweight packaging can play in prevention,” says Steve Russell, vice president of plastics at the American Chemistry Council, sponsor of the Plastics Make it Possible® initiative. “Improving the way we protect and preserve foods can help consumers save money, get more food to people who need it, and significantly reduce our environmental footprint,” he concludes.

Sealing ranges from basic to sophisticated. Hot melts, generally in a multi-bead pattern, are particularly popular for sift-proof bags and paperboard cartons. The resulting seal not only keeps products such as grains and flour from slowly draining out of the package, but also discourages insect infestation.

Hot melt adhesives also securely seal paperboard cartons and carriers used as secondary packaging as well as distribution packaging such as corrugated boxes and trays and help ensure the product arrives at its destination undamaged.

For flexible packaging, adhesives and sealants often play an essential role in the multilayer structures needed to deliver the strength and secure seals needed for safe transport through the supply chain as well as the barrier properties to block oxygen and moisture transmission and maximize shelf life.

Since expiration dates frequently do not accurately reflect product condition, foods that are still safe to eat are too often thrown away. As a result a number of brand owners have turned to time-temperature or freshness indicator labels to provide a good/not good indicator. These “active” labels often depend on a color change or tactile change to indicate product status and a pressure-sensitive adhesive to simplify application.

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