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Reducing Food Waste Saved UK Food Industry £100M in Just 3 Years

Image Credit: Food for Life Scotland

According to a new report released by WRAP, retailers and brands across the UK saved over £100 million by reducing food waste.

Working in partnership with grocery retailers, brands and suppliers as well as governments, WRAP developed and delivered a collaborative solution to reduce waste through Courtauld Commitment 3 (CC3). Launched in May 2013, it set ambitious targets to reduce the weight and carbon impact of household food waste, grocery product and packaging waste. Over 50 grocery retailers and food and drink manufacturers — including Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s — signed up to CC3, which competed at the end of 2015. On Tuesday, WRAP released a final report, sharing the successes and lessons learned during the period between 2012 and 2015.

CC3 aimed to deliver against three ambitious targets:

  • To reduce food and packaging waste by 3% in manufacturing and retail;
  • To improve packaging design and recyclability in the grocery supply chain without increasing the carbon impact; and
  • To reduce household food and drink waste by 5%.

The first target was met in full by the 50 signatories, indicating a 3% decline in grocery ingredient, product and packaging waste. This equates to 219,000 tons of food and packaging waste prevented and representing a CO2 emissions saving of 55,000 tons over the lifetime of the commitment. The value of food savings alone was worth an estimated £100 million.

WRAP also noted more waste had moved up the waste hierarchy as the recovery and recycling rate grew from 95% in 2012 to 99% in 2015, the equivalent of 89,000 tons of material.

The data suggests that signatories have achieved a significant increase in the amount of surplus food and drink redistributed for human consumption in 2015, approximately 18,000 tons.

To help maximize progress, WRAP established a working group of businesses, sector bodies and food redistribution organizations to share knowledge and experiences of barriers to food waste prevention. The group helped WRAP produce a range of key topic material for the sector, including:

  • Framework, guidance and case studies to establish and maintain effective redistribution partnerships;
  • Guidance on increasing the product life of food available to customers — to address a leading cause of food waste in the home and supply chain;
  • A tool to help business audiences and food categories across new tailored waste prevention advice; and
  • Guidance to increase the use of surplus food not suitable for human consumption in the production of animal feed.

The CC3 achieved significant progress in regards to the packaging target, reducing food and packaging waste by 7% instead of the initial goal of 3%, while the amount of packaging material placed on the market increased by 1% over the same period, to just under three million tons. WRAP says the main reasons for this fall were increased recycling rates for different packaging materials and changes in materials composition, where wood, polymer, aluminum and steel packaging have seen reductions both in total weight placed on the market and CO2 emissions impact.

“The three phases of Courtauld have been a game-changer in bringing businesses together to work on issues of resource efficiency and drive change within their own operations. Today’s results show the industry’s commitment to reducing their environmental impacts and the huge benefit of collaborative action, particularly in the supply chain,” said Steve Creed, director of Business Programs at WRAP.

While the 50 signatories had no trouble meeting the first two targets, reducing household food and drink waste by 5% proved to be more of a challenge. In fact, during the commitment period, household food waste actually increased, climbing from 7 million tons in 2012 to 7.3 million tons in 2015. This is particularly interesting given the number of food waste initiatives that have popped up in the UK during the same period.

WRAP attributes a combination of influences having contributed to the target being missed, including population growth, falling food prices and increased personal earnings, which have reduced the pressure for people to avoid wasting food.

“Good progress has been made by the 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,” said Environmental Minister Thérèse Coffey.

“But we all have a role to play and despite a million-ton fall in domestic food waste since 2007, there is clearly more we need to do. That is why we will continue to work with WRAP to support their new strategy to raise awareness, increase education and change people’s perceptions of food waste.

Under Courtauld Commitment 2025, a target approach to reducing household food waste is being developed by WRAP’s consumer campaign Love Food Hate Waste. WRAP will work with Courtauld 2025 signatories to investigate potential high-impact ways of helping consumers make best use of the food they buy, including tips on-pack for the most commonly wasted food items and personalized messaging to help individuals identify beneficial changes in their food habits, for example, through online shopping, loyalty card schemes and digital receipts.


Libby MacCarthy is an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands, based in Maine and France. She is a former urban planner specializing in sustainable cities, and an urban farming and film photography enthusiast. She holds a BA in Environment, Society and… [Read more about Libby MacCarthy]


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