Incpen – the industry council for research on packaging and the environment – has said “misunderstandings and misinformation” were hampering packaging's ability to deliver sustainability benefits.
The organisation said the problem of food waste could be tackled more effectively if a greater focus was placed on trying to prevent it happening in the first place, rather than finding ways to deal with it afterwards.
Incpen director Jane Bickerstaffe, said: “Too many people are still of the opinion that packaging is a major environmental problem.
“Because of this, there is a real danger that its valuable contribution in delivering a more sustainable way of life is being overlooked.”
Bickerstaffe cited the current focus on the need to reduce food waste.
“People often regard the pre-packaging of items that can be sold loose, such as apples and tomatoes, as a demonstration of unnecessary packaging,” she said. “The reality however, is that a far higher proportion of foods sold loose are damaged and end up being wasted.
“Packaging can help to ensure that food products are effectively protected and preserved throughout the supply chain so that they arrive at the consumer's home in the best possible condition.”
Incpen said the recent calls by leading London chefs including Ed Baines, founder of Randall & Aubin in London's Soho district, and the outspoken Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to ban the use of expanded polystyrene containers are misplaced.
“Food manufacturers need to be able to select from the widest choice of packaging materials and formats to enable them to find the right solution for their particular product,” said Bickerstaffe.
“Over-packaging in itself is something of a myth since no right-minded manufacturer is going to spend more than is absolutely necessary on its packaging, particularly in today's highly competitive markets.”
According to the latest statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the UK recycling rate of ‘waste from households' reached 44.9% in 2014, up from 44.1% in 2013.
In 2013, 72.7% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered compared to 69.1% in 2012.