Robert van Otterdijk

Agro-Industry Officer, SAVE FOOD – Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction Regional Officer for Europe and Central Asia, Food and Agriculture Organisation

1. How does the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s programme on Food Loss and Waste reduction connect to the packaging industry?
Packaging materials are, in the first place, meant to contain, preserve and protect food. In this way, they are an important means to prevent food loss through spoilage.
Secondly, packaging materials contain information about food safety and expiry, and if this information is interpreted well by the consumer it can prevent food waste.

2.What are the main responsibilities in your role?
The Save Food Initiative of FAO plays a coordinating and connecting role for the thousands of initiatives on FLW reduction world-wide. We bring public, private and civil society initiatives together, to share problems and solutions, enhancing synergy. In addition, we do research and offer the community standard methodologies for FLW analysis and measurement, a Definitional Framework, outlines for policy and strategy formulation. Finally, FAO is the custodian of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 on FLW reduction.

3.What are your three biggest challenges?
1.  To unravel the extremely complex nature of the causes of FLW and the reasons behind those causes – the nature of which has social, economic, technical and environmental dimensions.
2.  To get the world-wide action on FLW reduction collaborating in partnership, sharing resources.
3.  To change the attitude of (wealthy) consumers and food industry with regard to wasting food.

4.Can you describe one of FAO’s biggest ‘success stories’ regarding packaging and FLW reduction?
To answer this question you have to realize that FAO and the public sector cannot reduce FLW at any significant scale. It has to be done by the private sector in the food industry, among which the food packaging sector. FAO’s biggest success has been to unite the packaging industry in the Save Food Initiative, to make them aware of the FLW problem, and to inspire them to action.

5.Consumer engagement are becoming hot topics among the packaging community: what’s your position?
For food waste reduction, consumer engagement is the most important element. Consumers in the industrialised world are the biggest food wasters, and consumer preferences and opinions determine what the food industry and food packaging industry does. Therefore I think that if you want to change the policy of the industry you should start with their clients.