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Household and manufacturing generate most waste in supply chain

Household and manufacturing generate the largest amounts of waste in the retail supply chain, according to a report published by the Waste & Resources Action Programme.

The report, Waste Arisings in the Supply of Food and Drink to Households in the UK, published today, highlights the total economic losses within the UK food and drink chain, as well as breaking down the four areas of the supply chain and looking at which generates the most waste.

According to the report, the total losses from manufacturer through to retail and household for food and drink and packaging solid wastes are estimated at £17bn a year.

Household waste accounts for the largest portion of waste generated within the supply chain at 64.7% or 11.9 million tonnes, while the manufacturing process generates 27% or five million tonnes of waste. Distribution and retail account for much smaller proportions of the total waste generated, although there is still scope to reduce waste in these areas.

The report acknowledges that while retailers and brands are making efforts to reduce their packaging and reduce food waste, more still needs to be done. It makes several recommendations for better waste prevention within the retail supply chain including:

  • Measuring waste
  • Quantifying waste arisings at sub-category level
  • Improving forecasting and working in partnership with suppliers
  • Shifting the emphasis from waste management to waste minimisation
  • Considering how the surplus food and drink waste could be redistributed, recycled or recovered
  • Behavioural change through improving communications
  • Optimising packaging specifications
  • Retailers playing a key role in supporting waste prevention
  • Delivering change through sectoral initiatives such as the Courtauld Commitment.

WRAP director of retail and organics Richard Swannell said: Thinking needs to go beyond an individual site or an individual company. An integrated approach throughout the chain could really help reduce costs and waste, resulting in more efficient management of resources from their point of production through to their point of consumption.

The key thing to come out of this report is that waste prevention gives the best possible opportunity in terms of cost savings and efficiency. Working together as a supply chain does help drive down waste but all areas of the supply chain need to work together to ensure they get things right.

The report was based on a previous WRAP study carried out by DHL Exel Supply Chain. Building on this existing research, WRAP commissioned Oakdene Hollins to identify further opportunities for cost savings, improved resource efficiencies and future interventions.



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