Saving Food, Feeding People: RIT hosts Packaging Association’s Food Waste Forum

Solutions to reducing food waste through sustainable packaging to be discussed at local event

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Ron Cotterman and James Downham

Thirty-three percent of all food produced globally is wasted, according to the Packaging Association. Sustainable packaging solutions could be one remedy for bringing more food to more tables, helping millions of people around the world who suffer from hunger.

Rochester Institute of Technology is hosting PAC Food Waste Forum on Wednesday, April 2, with a presentation at RIT that is open to the general public. On Thursday, April 3, the Packaging Association will hold its member-meeting, also at the university.

Featured presenters on Wednesday will be James Downham, president and chief executive officer of the Packaging Association, and Ron Cotterman, vice president of sustainability at Sealed Air Corp. Their presentation begins at 5 p.m. and takes place in RIT’s Louise M. Slaughter Hall, rooms 2230/2240. It is free and registration is required as seating is limited.

Downham and Cotterman will discuss the PAC Food Waste initiative, a global effort to investigate waste in the supply chain and identify packaging opportunities for innovation, to determine ways to extend product shelf life and to educate the broader community about its role in preventing food waste.

The Packaging Association was established in 1950, initially based in Canada, but has since expanded and serves packaging industry corporations and professionals in North America. The association’s PAC Food Waste initiative was created in response to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The organization estimated that to ensure the world’s population can be fed, food production must increase by 66 percent. But along the supply chain—the path from farm to market to consumer—more than 33 percent of food produced is lost or wasted. To date, more than 30 organizations across the supply chain have committed to PAC Food Waste and to finding solutions to the impact of food waste on individuals, the environment and economy.

The Rochester meeting of the PAC Food Waste initiative will focus on projects including compiling food waste reduction case studies, developing a listing of companies focused on improving sustainable packaging toward decreasing food waste and reviewing best practices.

The event is being hosted by the Department of Packaging Science, part of RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology. Association members will also be able to tour the university’s Packaging Science laboratories that provide not only academic support, but also full commercial package-testing services. In 2012, RIT received gifts totaling $2.2 million from The Wegman Family Charitable Foundation and American Packaging Corp. to create the Center for Sustainable Packaging, a testing ground for new ideas and solutions in sustainable packaging. It will also educate the next generation of packaging professionals intent on bringing sustainable principles to manufacturers around the world.