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Food supply chain saves £100m by reducing waste

Food retailers and manufacturers saved £100 million by reducing food waste and improving packaging design in the grocery supply chain between 2012 and 2015.

Food retailers and manufacturers saved £100 million by reducing food waste and improving packaging design in the grocery supply chain between 2012 and 2015.

Over 50 companies took part in the government-backed Courtauld Commitment 3 programme, run by WRAP, including the big four UK supermarkets and leading multinationals such as Coca Cola and Nestle.

The signatories committed to reducing their food and packaging waste by three per cent in manufacturing and retail, improving packaging design and recyclability in the grocery supply chain without increasing carbon emissions, and reducing household food and drink waste by five per cent.

Cost savings

The manufacturing and retail target was met in full, equating to 219,000 tonnes of food and packaging waste prevented - worth an estimated £100 million.

Separate research from WRAP suggests that spreading best practice throughout the grocery supply chain could lead to savings of £300 million a year.

The packaging target was also exceeded, with the amount of packaging material placed on the market increasing by one per cent but related emissions falling by seven per cent. The main contributing factors for this fall were increased recycling rates and less wood, polymer, aluminium and steel packaging being used. 

Tools and resources

To help progress spread through the supply chain, WRAP established a working group of businesses, sector bodies and food redistribution organisations to share knowledge and experiences of barriers to food waste prevention.

As a result, WRAP has produced a range of useful resources for the food and drink sector, including guidance on food redistribution partnerships, increasing product life and waste prevention.

Therese Coffey, environment minister, said: “Good progress has been made by industry to tackle food and packaging waste in the supply chain and it goes to show the achievements that can be made through working together with partners across the UK.

“But we all have a role to play and despite a million-tonne fall in domestic food waste since 2007, there is clearly more we need to do.”

Household dilemma

One area where the industry has struggled to make an impact is household waste. The signatories failed to hit the five per cent reduction target, with household food waste in 2015 estimated to be some 300,000 tonnes higher than in 2012.

Falling food prices and increased personal earnings are all thought to have contributed to this rise by reducing the pressure on people to avoid wasting food.

Under the newest phase of the Courtauld Commitment, dubbed Courtauld 2025, the signatories are expected to work with WRAP to deliver new methods of helping consumers make best use of the food they buy.

This could include tips on-pack and on-shelf, or more consistent application of best practice in date labelling, storage advice and product portioning. 

Signatories have also committed to double the amount of food surplus they send for redistribution, and help other companies increase the level of unsold food redistributed, by 2020.