Food packaging is omnipresent in our daily lives, making it possible to better protect food and reduce food waste. However, in the past decade, the packaging industry has experienced strong growth, with some notable evolutions: the increased use of plastics to replace other substrates (partly to serve the end user better), and a strong economic growth in emerging countries. Together with the use of single-use packaging, it causes a substantial environmental impact, and makes the management of packaging waste extremely challenging in terms of recyclability. Consumers and governments are therefore increasingly demanding sustainable packaging, driving companies towards more socially responsible packaging strategies.
At the same time, the food industry has also undergone a number of evolutions: an increasing attention to reducing additives in food, less intensive processes such as mild pasteurisation processes instead of sterilisation processes, etc. These evolutions result in higher quality food with better retention of nutrients and sensory properties, but put pressure on the microbiological and chemical stability. In order to guarantee the required shelf life, a suitable packaging system must be used, both in terms of the type of packaging materials and machines, and in terms of the environmental conditions in which the filling takes place. Such a packaging system must be developed or selected specifically on the basis of the characteristics of the food to be packaged, the storage conditions during distribution, and storage further down the food chain.
The Master of Science in Sustainable Food Packaging brings the three domains together and addresses the question of how we can keep food safe and preserve it for the required shelf-life using food packaging systems that are sustainable and balance the ecological footprint with ensuring access to high quality food and maintaining profitable food supply chains. This question is part of the larger (international) challenge to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns by improving environmental and societal sustainability and increasing the circularity in food packaging systems.