Meal kits could have less of an environmental impact – despite their higher use of packaging, says new study

1 May 2019

Meal kits have a lower overall carbon footprint than those purchased at the supermarket – despite using more packaging, according to new research.

A study by the School for the Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, found that on average, the greenhouse gases emitted were a third lower from meal kits compared to food bought in stores.

Shellie Miller, director of the university’s environmental programme and a collegiate professor of sustainable systems, said: “Meal kits are designed for minimal food waste.

“So, while the packaging is typically worse for meal kits, it’s not the packaging that matters most.

“It’s food waste and transportation logistics that cause the most important differences in the environmental impacts of these two delivery mechanisms.”

Meal kits packaging compared to supermarkets

Meal kits do contain more packaging than supermarket food – but due to pre-portioning, there’s less food per meal that’s used.

Professor Miller explained this is because the environmental impact of food waste outweighs the packaging in meal kits.

She said: “We took a close look at the trade-off between increased packaging and decreased food waste with meal kits, and our results are likely to be a surprise to many, since meal kits tend to get a bad environmental rap due to their packaging.

“Even though it may seem like that pile of cardboard generated from a Blue Apron or HelloFresh subscription is incredibly bad for the environment, that extra chicken breast bought from the grocery store that gets freezer-burned and finally gets thrown out is much worse.

“This is because of all the energy and materials that had to go into producing that chicken breast in the first place.”

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