Stockpiling results in increased food waste

Sliced bread on a white wooden table
Photo by Joanna Dubaj, c/o Pixabay

One of the main consequences of the Coronavirus epidemic worldwide has been the stockpiling of essential goods. This has resulted in increased food waste. Whilst for many consumers the environmental impact is not front of mind, there has been a substantial wastage of fresh food and that includes key essentials such as bread.

The packaging experts We Seal in the UK are producers of bread bag seals. These are used on at least 95 percent of the nation’s supermarket loaves and those which are branded varieties too. The demand for fresh bread in a panic-led climate has meant bakeries increasing their production by 20 to 30 percent more. The levels of waste are now even higher than during the Christmas festivals. 

Generally, according to WRAP, in the UK there is about £19bn of food waste. That amount contributes about 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. Clearly and irrespective of the current crisis there is a demand to reduce food waste but the current Coronavirus situation has exacerbated everything.

One of the reasons for increased bread buying is the consumer’s idea of simplicity in eating. Bread is a staple and so it comes top of the list of food products that need to be stored. Unfortunately, it can only be frozen for long-term storage and so is regularly wasted at an extraordinarily high rate. Sadly, it also impacts on stocks of flour and yeast in particular because so many people in lockdown have turned to breadmaking to meet shortages.

The State Of Bread Packaging

We Seal has examined the type of environmental packaging that bread could come in. Just under half of all customers in the UK would like their bread wrapped in paper or in a paper bag. Most bread is currently wrapped in low density polyethylene bags. The business believes that a move to paper bags might not be an environmentally sound as thought however.

Bread tends to stale quickly in the presence of air. Paper is porous unlike plastic such as LDPE. Bread stored in a paper bag goes stale more quickly. If its is stored in LDPE wrapping it retains its freshness longer.

If the recycling of plastic wrapping was better then the outcome for LDPE wrapping might be better. Apparently, 20 percent of UK subjects recycle plastic bread bags. About 46 percent consider such plastic bags to be non-recyclable and 30 percent have no knowledge at all about the status of recycling such plastic. 

One of the consequences of responding to climate change by UK consumers has been to alter their buying habits because of the concerns about plastic packaging. Some people will not buy bread anyway – that is about 4 percent of consumers because of the plastic packaging issue. After the Coronavirus crisis it is likely that we will be dealing with the consequences of the stockpiling issues. We will clearly be coming to terms with how we manage plastic packaging and baked goods generally will be an important consideration.

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