food waste

Nearly two million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK grocery supply chain, with more than half of it avoidable, according to a new report by Wrap.

The report, funded by the UK government and Welsh Assembly, has been billed as the most comprehensive review of surplus food and food waste from UK food manufacturers and grocery retailers.

Wrap reveals the annual waste bill costs the food and drink industry a staggering £1.9bn a year in lost sales, with the report for the first time detailing the waste throughout the post-farmgate supply chain that could have been avoided.

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Of the total food waste at retail and manufacture (1.9 million tonnes), around 1.1 million tonnes or 56% was classified as avoidable.

Although the report recognises the strides being made in reducing food waste in an industry that last year redistributed 47,000 tonnes of food, the equivalent of 90 million meals a year, it calls on companies in retail and manufacture to go much further.

Wrap’s reports claims just 18% of food surplus and food ending up as waste that may have been suitable for redistribution was actually redistributed in 2015. 

It also finds 860,000 tonnes of food surplus and material currently going to waste could be suitable for use in animal feed, compared with the 660,000 tonnes currently being used.

“Today’s report, which uses new and more robust methodologies, gives us the clearest indication yet of where, and why, food surpluses and waste occur,” said Wrap director Dr Richard Swannell. “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.”

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Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, said: “All retailers are committed to reducing food waste; it makes commercial sense and is the best way to reduce our environmental impact. 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.’

FDF corporate affairs director Tim Rycroft added: “FDF members fully understand the importance of reducing avoidable food waste across the whole supply chain in order to deliver sustainable growth and improve resource efficiency. Since 2011, according to Wrap analysis, food and drink manufacturers have achieved a 200,000 tonne reduction in food waste.” 

However, FareShare CEO 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. Some food businesses may be unsure about the types of surplus food they can redistribute or feel daunted about the process, but FareShare will work with them to make it as easy and cost-effective as possible to identify and redistribute their good, surplus food to the people who need it most.”

This article is part of our major Waste Not Want Not campaign, which you can read more about here.