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UK Households Waste $11 Billion Worth of Food Each Year

Image credit: Sporkist

UK households waste £6.9 billion ($11 billion) worth of food and drink, or 7 percent of overall sales, each year, according to new research from WRAP.

The organization estimates that the grocery retail supply chain produces roughly 6.5 million tons (Mt) of annual waste. Of this, 3.9 Mt is derived from food and drink manufacturers, with the majority being food.

According to the research, retailers' main source of waste comes from packaging, which accounts for around 1.2 Mt. For the report, WRAP studied waste across the supply chain and to see how waste is managed, where food is being redistributed to and where it is used as an ingredient in animal feed. The report also assesses other materials arising from the production of food.

WRAP says there is a significant opportunity to reduce food, drink and packaging waste. While it supports the need for businesses to work to reduce their own waste, it also emphasizes the importance of collaboration across the supply chain to unlock waste-prevention solutions. Driving waste prevention will lead to a host of financial and environmental benefits, the organization claims.

“This new research from WRAP can help deliver significant benefits for businesses and the environment,” said Richard Swannell, director at WRAP. “Armed with this knowledge, businesses, and the supply chain as a whole, can more readily identify where problems are arising, enabling them to find the solutions to reduce their waste and make large financial and environmental savings.”

In 2012, WRAP introduced a supply chain waste-reduction target into Courtauld Commitment Phase 2. Though not all of the identified waste is preventable, the agreement allows businesses to take action to reduce manufacturing and retail waste. Phase 3, which began in May, incorporated recommitments from Coca-Cola Enterprises, Unilever, AB InBev, Nestlé, and 45 other retailers, manufacturers and brands to a joint reduction of food and drink waste by 1.1 million metric tons by 2015. This fall, a final report on the Courtauld Commitment Phase 2 agreement showing progress with the supply chain target will be published. The law on food waste also will change for all businesses in Scotland beginning January 2014.

Earlier this year, WRAP released a study that analyzed 50 grocery products with the biggest environmental impact and found that together they contribute between 21 and 33 percent of household greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Some of the products include such staples as bread, potatoes, bananas and milk. This compelled companies such as the Co-operative Group, Nestlé and Sainsbury’s to commit to improving the sustainability performance of some of their products.


Mike Hower is Marketing Communications Manager at Carbon Lighthouse. With a background on both sides of the communications podium — as a journalist and strategic communicator — he is committed to helping organizations address climate change through sustainability innovation. Previously,… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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