Leading food companies sent 600,000 tonnes of food waste to landfill and a further 720,000 tonnes to anaerobic digestion according to their latest figures, a new report reveals.
The anonymised figures come from 16 of the world’s major companies who reported as part of the Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Waste Coalition of Action.
The group said the figures, compiled by Wrap, were being relased in a bid to set a baseline and increase transparency in the battle to reduce food waste.
Only 16 of the 21 companies in the group provided figures, however, and Wrap said only 10 out of those 16 had provided figures allowing it to work out how much food had been sold and wasted. The figures needed to be “treated with caution”, it added.
Companies in the Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Waste Coalition for Action were responsible for 2.12 million tonnes of food waste, according to their latest figures.
The figures cover a 2021 baseline and show nearly 929,000 tonnes of waste came from retailers, with 1.19 million tonnes coming from manufacturers.
Companies in the CGF group include Tesco, McCain Foods, Walmart, Unilever, Kraft Heinz and Sainsbury’s.
The move comes amid a looming court battle in the UK over the government’s decision to backtrack on plans to make major food companies report on their food waste figures.
Defra is facing judicial review proceedings over its decision, having claimed the move could force up food prices by imposing more red tape on companies.
“We welcome the findings of this report, as it represents our commitment to transparency going forwards,” said Ken Murphy, group chief executive at Tesco.
“We now want to see solid progression along our pathway to our 2030 goal and with a baseline we can now track our collective achievements.
“We encourage other companies to lean into the challenges, and join us on our journey.”
“The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend,” said Max Koeune, president and CEO, McCain Foods.
“Having this new coalition baseline by which to measure our progress on food loss and waste each year will not only help us understand just how much work remains to be done, but will also help set a clear pathway forwards for action.”
Sharon Bligh, director of health and sustainability at the CGF, said: “It is now well known that addressing food loss and waste can have a huge impact, not just in reducing hunger but also in mitigating the effects of climate change.
“Public reporting on food loss and waste is widely recognised as a trigger for rapid and effective action. This baseline report represents a line in the sand for our coalition, and we are confident that it will help guide our 2030 roadmap to ensure we fully understand the challenges and opportunities to end food waste.”
Martin Bowman, senior policy manager at Feedback, said it was not transparent for companies to be providing anonymised data via Wrap and called for the food industry to join the likes of Tesco in support of mandatory food waste reporting.
He also accused the CGF of making slow progress in transparency, with the forum having first promised collective action to tackle food waste in 2015.
“Why has it taken eight to nine years for reporting food waste data to happen and even then in such a limited form?” he asked.