Preventing food waste has been a challenge for humans since the beginning of time. From the ancient Greeks washing figs in seawater to the medieval Chinese covering lemons and oranges in wax, people have been using various methods to preserve food for centuries. Today, preventing food waste is still a significant challenge, but the stakes are different. Wasted food contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and fruits and vegetables make up the largest portion of wasted food globally.

One of the most significant tools producers currently use to reduce food waste is plastic and chemicals. A Swiss study showed that the climate benefits of wrapping cucumbers in plastic outweighed the negative impacts of the packaging. Chemicals such as chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, and trisodium phosphate are also commonly used to kill microorganisms on fresh produce to prevent spoilage. However, customers are increasingly turning away from these methods due to concerns about the environmental impact of plastics and the potential health risks associated with chemical treatments.

The solution to this problem may lie in new technologies that are being developed to preserve fruits and vegetables without the use of plastics and chemicals. Researchers are exploring various methods, such as high-tech coatings, to extend the shelf life of fresh produce. Additionally, efforts are being made to improve the state of roads to reduce the amount of produce that is damaged during transport. While many of these technologies are still in the research stage, others are starting to appear on supermarket shelves, offering a more sustainable solution to the problem of food waste.