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Podcast / Food Futures
Podcast / Food Futures

Plastic or food waste: which is the bigger threat?

This year is the first observance of the UN’s International Day of Awareness of Food Waste and Loss. However, many consumers are not aware that 1.3bn tonnes of food is wasted each year. Compared to awareness of plastic pollution, is food waste an equal or possibly an even greater threat to the environment? What role can plastic play in preventing food waste while being more sustainable?

Today we’re joined by experts in the field of sustainability, to debate how we can reduce food waste while simultaneously reducing our reliance on single-use plastic. Our panel includes Leela Dilkes-Hoffman, Project Manager – Innovation, New Plastics Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Helén Williams, Associate Professor, Karlstad University and Toine Timmerman, Programme Manager Sustainable Food Chains, Wageningen University.

About our panel

Leela Dilkes-Hoffman, Project Manager – Innovation, New Plastics Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Leela is part of the New Plastic Economy innovation team. She uses her technical background to assess emerging innovation opportunities within the plastic packaging sector, specifically focusing on the exciting innovation and business potential offered by upstream solutions.

Helén Williams, Associate Professor in environmental and energy systems, Karlstad University

Helén Williams is associate professor in environmental and energy systems at Karlstad University. Helén and colleagues have for more than 10 years explored the services that packaging provide for and specifically focused on the packaging functions that reduce food waste in households. They have in several research articles calculated the environmental impact of packaging versus the impact from food waste in order to prove better basis for design decisions. The researchers have found that it is very important for the producer to make sure that the amount of food matches the needs of the consumers and that the provided information about product safety is improved. To meet the goals of halving food waste by 2030, we need a packaging development that takes a broad responsibility.

Toine Timmerman, Programme Manager Sustainable Food Chains, Wageningen

Toine Timmermans is Program Manager Sustainable Food Chains at Wageningen University & Research, and Coordinator of the EU projects FUSIONS and REFRESH. He is member of the steering committee of the joint effort to harmonise food loss and waste (FLW) assessment, via the global Food Loss and Waste Reporting and Accounting standard. He is also member of the European Commission Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.

His current research themes are focused on radical technology driven innovations to increase resource efficiency in the food supply chain, by reducing food loss and improved valorization of resources. Also his research is performed to future closed loop supply chains in relation to the use of packaging materials and to reduce methane emissions in the dairy sector. Toine is project leader of the FLW reduction project within the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) with a focus on developing and emerging countries.

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