In July 2017, two Amcor experts, Michigan-based Laurie Goetz, Director of Technical Services for the Rigid Plastics business, and Immaculada Urpina, Amcor’s social responsibility consultant, followed a typical supply route for humanitarian aid. Their aim was to identify where enhanced packaging could help move more food to people in urgent need.
Starting in Mombasa, they visited the main WFP warehouse - a large emergency hub for WFP. They then travelled to Kakuma, one of the world’s longest established refugee camps and visited a local mill to see how food is stored and distributed. The mission also visited a medical clinic serving mothers and children in Lodwar, and a school meals programme in north-western Kenya.
First impressions on the ground
With colleagues from WFP and representatives from Kemin Industries, a global nutritional ingredient company, the Amcor team began their mission in Mombasa, on Kenya’s southern coast. There they saw how aid arrived at the port and was unloaded, divided and reloaded onto trucks and transported to distribution points.
In World Food Programme port in Mombasa, Kenya. Super Cereal is carried from the warehouse to a truck for transportation to the Kakuma Refugee Camp.
At the Lodwar Medical Clinic, where mothers who are breastfeeding and children up to five years old are provided with aid and medical services, the team met with local WFP team members and saw how Amcor’s work with WFP
to improve flexible packaging has already helped save lives.
The group also spent a night at a compound in the Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya. Established in 2012, it has a registered population of 164,571 refugees and asylum seekers.
Describing the transportation and distribution of aid, Laurie said: “WFP does a great job given they don’t always have access to forklift trucks; it’s a labour-intensive operation which is low-tech but highly efficient. There’s little shelving in the warehouses, so products are often stacked. In some cases, the local teams stack pallets to create steps to reach higher levels of storage.
“Local WFP teams buy extra containers so that when packaging provided by food suppliers fails, they can repack products on receipt. It was clear to us how improvements to packaging will further reduce the loss of food and also drive down packaging waste.” The opportunity to improve packaging was apparent when the team followed the supply chain of vitamin-enriched vegetable oil, a key component of food aid worldwide. The oil is shipped into the country in large, 4L tins, which, on arrival, are pierced and decanted into bins at distribution points. The oil is then scooped and dispensed into containers for beneficiaries. This results in loss of oil and unnecessary labour.
Distributing oil at Kakuma Camp: tins are pierced and decanted into a barrel, and then poured by funnel into a container.
Work to improve the durability and practicality of rigid packaging for oil is now underway, with Amcor experts in the company’s global innovation labs inspecting and testing the current packaging and proposing how it can be improved or replaced.
Unlocking big ideas
Being on a mission with specialists from different industries and backgrounds meant that Amcor representatives made important cross-disciplinary connections. Kemin Industries, who also partner with WFP, for example, gave advice on how to maximise nutrients and vitamins in food products, and Amcor gave guidance on how improved packaging materials will better preserve those vital nutrients during transportation and storage.
Laurie described a discussion with Kemin being a real ‘aha!’ moment. “We realised that we can do more than just improve the structure of the packaging,” she said. “Among other improvements, we advised WFP that adding UV inhibitors to the packaging could better preserve food quality.
“With Kemin and Amcor partnering with the WFP, the programme will be able to distribute oil that is appropriately nutritious, and is contained in packaging that doesn’t leak, protects the product inside, and enables efficient distribution. The shelf life will be extended and packaging waste will be reduced. Most importantly, people in dire need will receive high-quality aid.”
Laurie Goetz, Amcor's Director of Technical Services, Rigid Plastics, in front of the World Food Programme warehouse in Mombasa, Kenya.
Laurie has brought together an industrial design team in Amcor’s Manchester, Michigan, site to work with colleagues in Belgium and the UK to develop proposals for safer, more efficient packaging. Amcor’s proposals will be used by the WFP as they continue to work with their food suppliers to improve packaging and distribution.
Under a multi-year partnership, Amcor will continue to advise the WFP on how to improve the rigid and flexible packaging of aid, and support the implementation of those improvements.
Amcor experts are inspecting and testing supplier packaging and proposing how to improve or replace it.
For more information about Amcor’s sustainability partnerships https://www.amcor.com/sustainability.
For more information about the United Nations World Food Programme www.wfp.org.
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