New research project to reduce the amount of packaging in food value chains

As part of the innovation programme of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), corsus is conducting the research project InNoPack together with ÖKOPOL GmbH and plietsch GbR. The acronym stands for the telltale title of the project: “Innovative and waste-avoiding system solutions for packaging-free food shopping”. The central question is how food can be brought to consumers in a more environmentally friendly way.

Although there are now about 200 shops exclusively selling unpackaged foods in Germany, unpackaged foods are still a niche compared to the sales of packaged foods. Little research has been done on how unpackaged food compares to packaged food in terms of environmental impact. Within the framework of the InNoPack project, this question is to be answered by Life Cycle Assessment studies carried out by corsus. The results will help to develop holistic models for the environmentally friendly sale of unpacked foods. In order for this to succeed, several aspects are of central importance:

Firstly, unpackaged food should not only be considered at the time of sale in the retail store. Rather, its entire journey along the supply chain should be considered: Things like the wholesale packaging design, i.e. the materials employed and the packaging size, or the transport logistics for unpackaged products matter in assessing the product’s footprint. The aim of optimisation concepts is to use as few packaging materials as possible without compromising product quality and shelf life.

Secondly, there is the related aspect of food waste. Packaging protects its contents from damage and premature spoilage and is generally produced with less environmental impact than its contents. Therefore, any additional food waste generated by unpackaged food must be carefully accounted for and balanced against the environmental benefits of packaging savings.

Lastly, unpackaged foods concepts must consider the needs of a broad range of consumers and fit their lifestyles and shopping habits. Only if they gain consumers’ acceptance can they make a noticeable difference in the amount of packaging waste generated in food retail. Therefore, the developed concepts will be tested in practice and their suitability for everyday use will be evaluated.

By taking these aspects into account, InNoPack creates a practical, holistic unpackaging concept that can be continuously evaluated and developed further to deliver real added value for environmental protection and resource conservation in food retailing.

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