Plastic food packaging is slowing down processes of reduction of Europe’s growing food waste problem, a new research conducted by Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe has revealed.

With the title ‘Unwrapped: how throwaway plastic is failing to solve Europe’s food waste problem (and what we need to do instead)’, the study says the annual use of plastic packaging has grown alongside levels of food waste since the 1950s.

The annual plastic usage in Europe currently stands at 30kg, while food waste amounts to 173kg.

Friends of the Earth Europe resource justice campaigner Meadhbh Bolger said: “The results are in: wrapping, bottling and packing food in plastic doesn’t systemically prevent food waste and sometimes even causes it.

“It’s a red herring that’s causing terrible pollution of our land, sea and air. EU decision-makers need to listen to the growing public appetite to quit plastics, help Europe lead in adopting strict rules to limit throwaway plastics, and shift to localised food systems without disposable packaging.”

The study claims food-grading standards, packaging food in multipacks and small format packs are major drivers of food and plastic packaging waste in Europe.

“Bottling and packing food in plastic doesn’t prevent food waste.”

The research also says policymakers are responsible for failing to accurately estimate the environmental impact of plastics while elaborating new policies for food packaging.

Zero Waste Europe sustainable products campaigner Ariadna Rodrigo said: “The packaging industry and the European Commission (EC) are not practising sound decision-making when it comes to food packaging.

“Their methodology, which often ignores the impacts of plastic waste, results in conclusions that favour complex food packs which are impossible to reuse or recycle.

“The result is the promotion of plastic packaging designed for landfill and incineration.”

The study further added that the lifecycle assessment methodology adopted by the EC overstates the benefits of plastic packaging and fails to recognise that a significant amount of plastic packaging ends up leaked into the environment.

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