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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: A Sustainable Packaging Approach

BY: Kelly Hensel
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Session 183
July 15; 1:30–3 p.m.
Room S404abc

This session begins by offering a brief overview of antimicrobial packaging with emphasis on sustainable packaging materials for meat and poultry products, as well as regulatory considerations. Next, the session speakers will delve into active packaging features, which work together with intrinsic food shelf life factors to extend the length of time that packaged foods are safe and acceptable. Many of those features are often as “natural” in origin as the packaged food, and have long partnered with product and package for shelf life extension without “artificial chemicals” objections. Growth of such applications has languished in spite of significant, untapped potential. The speakers will share a study that assesses drivers for new applications in the context of current market priorities and suggests how active packaging features can deliver fresher consumer choices in place of highly processed ones.

The last speaker will discuss the topic of sustainable packaging by highlighting a case study in Africa. The most economically-important, indigenous African grain legume is cowpea. The people of West and Central Africa, among the poorest and least-educated in the world, grow cowpeas for family food and to sell for needed cash. Unfortunately, trade in cowpeas is severely hampered by storage insects, especially the cowpea weevil. Unprotected cowpeas can be totally destroyed by the cowpea weevil after only two or three months. Faced with seemingly inevitable losses, cowpeas are often sold at harvest, when the price is lowest. Storage insecticides can be used to control cowpea weevils, but poor farmers often do not have access to these insecticides, and when they do, they often misuse them, resulting in health and environmental problems. In the case study, a non-chemical method for cowpea hermetic storage using a triple-layer plastic bag (called the PICS project) was introduced.