Food wasted in the grocery supply chain is significantly less than previously thought, according to research from WRAP.
A report is said to be the most comprehensive review of waste from UK food manufacturers and grocery retailers and, for the first time, breaks it down into manufacturing sub-sectors such as meat and dairy.
According to WRAP, total food waste (avoidable and unavoidable) in the grocery supply chain is 1.9 million tonnes, of which 1.7 million tonnes arises during manufacture and 210,000 tonnes in the retail process.
The 1.7 million figure is a revised estimate and less than half the 3.9 million tonnes that WRAP announced in 2011 because researchers are now said to have a better understanding of the different waste streams. Material associated with food production - but not made up of food - can now be excluded.
Efforts made by manufacturers and retailers have cut also food waste during the intervening period by around 200,000 tonnes, for example under WRAP’s voluntary Courtauld Commitment for the sector.
The grocery supply chain could, in the next 10 years, almost halve its avoidable food waste from 2009 when we first started work in this area
Richard Swannell, WRAP
Around 700,000 tonnes of material, which could have become waste, is either redistributed to people (47,000 tonnes) or diverted to animal feed – while a further 270,00 tonnes could be suitable for redistribution.
The report, Quantification of food surplus, waste and related materials in the grocery supply chain, says food surplus and waste in manufacture represent the equivalent of 4.2% of UK production, and that in the retail represents the equivalent of less than 1% of sales.
It identifies that a further 450,000 tonnes of food waste a year could be prevented by 2025, a reduction of 23%, but warns: “Realising this potential, in particular preventing food from being wasted in the first place and increasing redistribution, will be hugely challenging”.
Dr Richard Swannell, director at WRAP, said: “Through a combination of prevention, redistribution to people and diversion to animal feed, the grocery supply chain could, in the next 10 years, almost halve its avoidable food waste, from 2009 when we first started work in this area. This will significantly contribute to delivering the Courtauld 2025 food waste prevention target.”
British Retail Consortium director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: “We are pleased the report recognises our progress and confirms the tiny proportion of waste from our stores.
”However, we know we need to do more not only to cut waste but also redistribute surplus food which is why we are committed to extending our work with charities and are central to the implementation of the new initiative Courtauld 2025”.
FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell, said: “More than 450 food companies already work in partnership with FareShare to redistribute surplus food to the people who need it most. Yet only about 10,000 tonnes of surplus food is currently redistributed to charities each year, so there’s clearly huge potential to do more”.
WRAP is providing support through a suite of technical guidance, tools and case studies, including a new Guidance for Food and Drink Manufacturers and Retailers on the Use of Food Surplus as Animal Feed.
- WRAP’s action plan to maximise the amount of household and commercial food waste being collected and recycled in England is due in July.