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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Plastic packaging needs to divert attention from waste disposal by promoting itself as a means to solve food shortages in developing countries, according to Anders Soras, president of the International Association of Packaging Research Institutes.

Soras spoke at the institututes' world conference in Melbourne.

Other speakers agreed that focusing on technologies to reduce world food losses will improve the use and image of packaging.

Soras and Raul Hernandez, president of the World Packaging Organization, said the plastic packaging industry should work with governments globally to shift the focus from disposal to packaging's benefits to help ``feed the world.''

Hernandez said packaging is not merely about waste disposal, but improving standards of living, particularly in developing African and Asian countries where as much as 50 percent of post-harvest food is wasted or spoiled because of a lack of, or inadequate, packaging.

Soras said new technologies, such as enhanced shelf life, plus multilayered and oxygen-scavenging plastics, would reduce food losses in developing countries and allow new, vitamin- and protein-enriched foods to be distributed in areas where they are urgently needed.

Hernandez said the packaging industry should lobby for government and public support of packaging designed to reduce food spoilage and waste. Soras agreed, saying that, on average, 40 percent of world food harvests currently are going to waste. At least one-quarter of the waste could be saved by intelligent use of packaging, he said.

He called on governments and the packaging industry to aim at saving 10 percent annually of total world harvests within five years. Packaging is underrated, because its benefits are not well-marketed and the focus is on its negative environmental impact, he said.

Kees Sonneveld, conference chairman and director of Victoria University's Center for Packaging, Transportation and Storage in Melbourne, agreed that new packages for developing countries can improve the industry's public image and shift some of the negative image from packaging waste, particularly plastic.