An Insider View of Chakravarthi AVPS, Global Ambassador World Packaging Organisationfor FOOD MARKETING & TECHNOLOGY Magazine, India

 The vision statement of World Packaging Organisation isBetter quality of life throughbetter packaging for more people

Founded 1968 in Tokyo by visionary leaders from the global packaging community, the apex body of packaging : The World Packaging Organisation

  • Encourage the development of packaging technology, science, access and engineering;
  • Contribute to the development of international trade; and
  • Stimulate education and training in packaging.

Our primary activities are to promote education through meetings, special activities and publications, and sponsor an international packaging design awards program, the WorldStar the highest packaging excellence award and further to facilitate contact and exchange among the various national institutes of packaging.

 We are aware a significant percentage of food never meets its purpose, that of nourishing the hungry and the usual thought is that food and its packaging material ought to be safe, and the concern is safe delivery and preparation of the packed food for the consumer.

 Protecting any product that is packed is the primary function of any packaging. Ensuring that product safety at all stages from the source of production until it reaches customer is the prime objective and packaging contributes to this throughout the supply chain gamut. Good packaging contributes to providing safe and hygienic food around the world

Globally one third of all food is either wasted or lost. Truth is that, by reducing food waste we can solve global food needs for decades to come. The growing world population needs sufficient food and today around 840 million people are still starving. To curb this issue we need to increase food production  significantly which means we require more farm land, more water consumption, more animal feed and more fertilizers and all this will have adverse effects on the environment.

One cannot deny the fact that in reality by arresting or minimizing food loss and waste considerably, we can limit the scope of additional resource requirements

 A quarter of the food that is currently lost and wasted would be sufficient to feed the starving world population. An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is actually thrown away each year, either because it spoils due to incorrect storage or inappropriate transport methods or because it no longer meets the standards of the trade and consumers. In addition a lot of food is not eaten by consumers because, for example, the quantities purchased by them are too large. As per a study in under developed or developing countries food is lost at pre-harvest, harvest and initial handling phase while in other parts of the world food waste tends to move up the distribution chain to retail and consumption level. We notice here food is more likely thrown away when still edible.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) presented two fundamental studies on the scale and reasons for food loss in different regions of the world in 2011. And these studies clearly highlighted the role of packaging in preventing such loss in order to gain further understanding on how to secure a global resource-conserving food supply.

 An essential element is the use of expertise from the packaging and process industry. Efficient logistics are the key to minimizing food loss effectively on route to trade and consumers. This includes state-of-the-art processing methods as well as intelligent packaging systems which ensure comprehensive protection.

Possible packaging solutions:

  • Appropriate packaging
  • Appropriate materials
  • Modern packaging such as active and intelligent packaging
  • Portion sized packaging
  • Re-closable packaging
  • Convenient packaging
  • Hygienic processing and packaging

Circular Economy – Role of packaging

Packaging can play several roles in a circular economy.

Possible roles of packaging:

1. Packaging can contribute to reducing waste and thus making a circular economy more efficient (eg. by prolonging shelf life or protecting packaged goods)

2. Packaging can be reused (eg. b2b transport packaging inside and/or between industries and trade or in deposit systems in b2c trade)

3. Packaging materials can be recycled

4. High energy content packaging (e.g. fibre and plastic) can be used for energy generation when it can no longer be reused or recycled

Packaging can play a significant role in reverse logistics which will be an important part of future circular economy. Waste will become a valuable raw material and should be treated more carefully than before. Reverse logistics is an area of great potential for the packaging industry in the future. As a circular economy becomes mainstream in the future energy generation will not be preferred but actually the last choice and used only when all other possibilities have been used.

Coming to Plastics – Although several efforts are blaming the plastic industry for its negativity in generating plastic waste, I personally believe that plastic is a boon and we cannot imagine life without it.

For example, the thought of banning plastic must be removed from individuals’ minds as we cannot imagine how difficult it would have been during this pandemic time without PPE equipment or PPE kits which are made of plastic. Our efforts should be focused towards recycling more and disposing of waste materials responsibly. One such way is separating plastic waste from bio waste right from each household to large dump stations. Given the current scenario, although effort is made identifying bio based plastic material, focus should be more on effective ways to recycle the plastic.

In fact, if we notice during the decade or a little more, the packaging industry is reinventing itself. There have been remarkable improvements in material, processes and in energy efficiency influencing the total environmental footprint. A lot of emphasis has been put on the packaging waste issue. In the developed countries a determined direction has been set to circular economy in which waste becomes new raw material.

For several years, the packaging profession has not been provided sufficient recognition in the Industry. This has been changing in recent years and thanks to our efforts at WPO to promote packaging science and technology globally. Further, encouraging young generation students to pursue the field of packaging science and stimulate the development of packaging technology’s skills is very important. To encourage this, we conduct special category awards for students at the WPO Worldstar Packaging Awards.

I have had several opportunities to interact with the packaging industry and academia across the globe which provided a great source of knowledge. 

From the experience of some of my recent visits especially to the Middle East & South East countries, I feel the industry is undergoing major change and seeing an upgrade in terms of quality and offering convenience to customers. I feel there is still a great void in packaging education and awareness in society in many countries and this is where WPO does its bit by meaningful contributions.

Apart from promoting WPO activities and involving actively in packaging & related industry activities around the world, improving the membership is one of the key responsibilities. There are still a considerable number of countries who will join the WPO board in the coming days. WPO has already approved individual firms as its corporate partner members with my initiation. This will help the organisation to work better in achieving its objectives with the addition of more like minded people from various fields who join WPO for working actively with us.

 I also believe there is no culture on earth that can do without packaging and I am pained that it is viewed by many as a problem and an unavoidable burden. Frankly speaking, the world cannot do without packaging but we must learn to make packaging more effective than ever before and we must educate people everywhere to respect the purpose of packaging.

 I strongly feel packaging should also be considered as an industry segment like any other major segments like steel, cement, textile, IT and so on and every measure be taken for the upliftment of the industry and thereby contribute to the development of international trade. I always take pride in campaigning for the cause of packaging on umpteen platforms worldwide.