Food packaging plays an important role in modern mainstream food systems. While the main function of packaging remains to protect food from pathogens, over centuries, it also acquired other roles. It became an important marketing tool to increase companies’ sales. It also became a product that has to respond to the demand of time-pressed consumers. Packaging brings several benefits, but it also creates several environmental and social negative impacts, leading to the degradation of the ecosystems and to human health’s problem. An extensive literature analysed packaging in different sectors, however a more holistic system study is missing. For this reason, this interdisciplinary research (School of Agriculture & Food Sciences and Business School) applies a system approach to better understand the systemic cause of the food packaging problem. Specifically, system thinking methods, system dynamics modelling and network analysis are utilised to explore the drivers of the use of food packaging in the current growth-driven food economy. For an in-depth investigation, a primary data collection, in the form of semi-structured interviews to experts, has been undertaken. The goal of the empirical data collection is to explore stakeholders’ understanding of processes, causality and feedbacks of the complex system. The results have been used to build confidence in the Causal Loop Diagram, by revising and expanding current knowledge about packaging use in food systems. A quantitative Stock and Flow model will be constructed to simulate the relationships identified and to empirically test a range of policy options that could allow a shift towards a reduction of packaging use in food systems within a degrowth framework (degrowth society). This research contributes to the literature and to policy decisions supporting the benefits of applying system dynamic modelling to understand, explore and manage the leverage points that could shift food systems towards packaging reduction.

Project members