MPMA chief blasts distorted views of metal packaging

Robert Fell. Image: MPMA

Packaging gets a raw deal when it comes to circular economy considerations, according to MPMA director and chief executive, Robert Fell.  

Speaking at Metals Expo at the NEC in Birmingham, Fell reminded delegates that WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) 2018 data cited total greenhouse gas emissions relating to UK food production at 68% – but with just 3.3% attributed to packaging. 

And while metal packaging often receives more emissions-related criticism than other packaging materials, what is often conveniently overlooked is that canned food can be stored at ambient temperatures – from canning stage through to opening – meaning no refrigeration in transportation, in store, or at home. Further, being reheated from an ambient temperature, canned food uses around 15% less energy to heat than its chilled equivalents. 

Fell went on to tell delegates that according to WRAP data for 2018, the UK wasted 6.4 million tonnes of food that could have been consumed. This equates to around 17 million tonnes of CO2. Fell also noted that a key reason for the waste was food becoming out of date before it could be consumed. 

“Canned food’s long shelf life is all too often taken for granted,” he said. “If food packaging fails, or is not used and the food spoils, the consequent generation of methane has a greater impact on global warming than carbon dioxide. Cans provide a highly robust pack and canned foods’ minimum shelf life of three years can dramatically reduce waste by eliminating time sensitive spoilage and pack damage.” 

Fell also cited a report commissioned by Eviosys from Delaware University which explored the impact of metal packaging on energy and food waste in homes in North America and Canada published in 2015. The study showed that the use of food cans avoided the loss of 324.4 million litres of food each year. Extrapolated to consider the number of food cans sold globally each year, it is estimated that 1 billion litres of food waste was avoided in 2015 due to that year’s levels of food can use.  

Fell concluded: “Any claims that metal packaging is somehow the high carbon packaging option are based on a single dimensional and distorted view of reality that has clearly chosen to ignore a rather large number of facts.” 

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