fruit picking robot

No-one in the industry likes to throw food and drink away, whether it’s caused by over ordering, or lower than expected demand; whether it fails to meet specification guidelines, or is simply past its sell-by date. Waste is not just a mouldy loaf or a furry yoghurt. It’s a waste of money too. Waste costs the industry billions.

So it was encouraging that Wrap’s long-awaited report published today found food waste on the manufacturing side to be significantly lower than Wrap’s previous 3.9 million tonne estimate (from 2011). By not including cleaning water, soil and stones, together with a 10% reduction in food waste (from 2011 to 2014), the Quantification of Food Surplus, Waste and Related Materials in the Grocery Supply Chain report has concluded that the actual figure is 1.9 million tonnes – less than half the previous estimate.

And in summation, Dr Richard Swannell, Wrap’s director of sustainable food systems, also considered the grocery supply chain to be “very efficient”.

But that’s no reason for the industry to be complacent. The fact is the industry still either throws away or incinerates 1.9 million tonnes of food and drink waste.

See also: How to pledge your support for our campaign

And what’s really damning is that of this waste 1.1 million tonnes is ‘avoidable’, says the Wrap report. In other words, food that was fit for consumption, food that could easily and legally have been eaten, has been chucked in a bin or in an incinerator.

It isn’t just food that could have been used for animal feed, either. A staggering 270,000 tonnes of food waste was identified as being suitable for human consumption, compared with the current redistribution figure of 47,000 tonnes. In other words, only 17% of the food waste that’s fit for human consumption is being used to feed the poor and hungry.

These figures from the report put the industry to shame. And that’s why The Grocer has launched its new Waste Not Want Not campaign. We don’t like to see the industry brought into disrepute. We know the industry already takes waste seriously. And we also know the industry is full of good people doing good things. But despite its best intentions the Wrap reports shows the industry could be doing more to eliminate waste, and in particular, to alleviate poverty.

The food and drink industry is in a unique position to effect positive change. And it needs to redouble its efforts not only to reduce waste, in line with Courtauld 2025 targets, but to prioritise food redistribution wherever humanly possible.

So The Grocer has set itself the challenge of encouraging, chivvying, inspiring, shaming, supporting and above all uniting the industry behind three targets.

See also: Sales of new Perfectly Imperfect fruit & veg ‘flying’ at Tesco

You can read the campaign targets here. But if there’s one overarching aim, it is to work with the industry towards the goal that any edible food – food that cannot be sold by retailers and manufacturers for whatever reason – should be used to feed people ahead of any other purpose.

At the same time we know this isn’t always the easiest or indeed the cheapest option. So we want the government to incentivise the industry, so that even where it is not the easiest option, at least there is not a financial penalty for doing the right thing.

In this week’s issue of The Grocer we will outline the current situation when it comes to waste, and set out our campaign aims in full. Over the coming weeks and months (and indeed years) we will then develop a whole range of informative articles, while working behind the scenes, to lobby the government and to engender greater engagement, transparency and cooperation among retailers and manufacturers.

We also want you to get involved in the Waste Not Want Not campaign. Send us an email to:

  • Pledge your support
  • Explain why you are supporting our campaign
  • Tell us how you or your company have either reduced waste or plan to do so (and please keep us updated on your progress)
  • Act as a whistleblower for unnecessary waste

You can also show your support on Twitter by using the hashtag #wastenotwantnot.

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