Courtald Commitment saves major UK brands £100m of food waste

UK retailers and manufacturers have generated an estimated £100m in food waste savings over a three-year period as part of WRAP's Courtauld Commitment Phase 3, new figures released today (10 January) reveal.

The Commitment was launched on behalf of all four UK Governments in early 2013 with the aim of reducing food and packaging waste by 3% across the manufacturing and retail sectors.

Fresh data released by WRAP reveals that this target was achieved by the 53 signatories, which includes the ‘big four’ supermarkets, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Mondelez International and Nestlé, with 219,000 tonnes of waste  prevented and 555,000CO2e prevented over the Commitment’s lifetime. The data suggests that an extra 18,000 tonnes of surplus food and drink was redistributed for human consumption in 2015. 

According to WRAP’s update, the signatories also exceeded another core objective: to stop any increase in the impact of packaging in terms of CO2 emissions by the end of 2015. Increased recycling rates for various packaging materials and changes in materials composition saw a 7% reduction in emissions by 2015, during the same time that the amount of packaging materials on the market increased by 1%.

WRAP’s business programmes director Steve Creed said: “The three phases of Courtauld have been a game-changer in bringing businesses together to work on issues of resource efficiency and drive change within their own operations. Today’s results show the industry’s commitment to reducing their environmental impacts and the huge benefit of collaborative action, particularly in the supply chain.”

Changing perceptions

Despite the achievements of the signatories to significantly reduce waste levels, progress to reduce household food waste at a UK level has stalled. The Commitment failed to reach its target to cut household food and drink waste by 5%, with the figure in fact rising by 0.3mt in three years to 7.3mt. WRAP attributes this increase to several factors including population growth, falling food prices and rising personal earnings.

Businesses will be called upon throughout the new Courtauld 2025 scheme to investigate potential methods of encouraging consumer waste reduction, with potential changes including on-pack and on-shelf-display tips, and consistent application of best practice in date labelling and storage advice on key products.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Good progress has been made by industry to tackle food and packaging waste in the supply chain and it goes to show the achievements that can be made through working together with partners across the UK.
“But we all have a role to play and despite a million-tonne fall in domestic food waste since 2007, there is clearly more we need to do. That is why we will continue to work with WRAP to support their new strategy to raise awareness, increase education and change people’s perceptions of food waste.”

‘Dysfunctional system’

The UK’s attempts to reduce food and packaging waste will require a collective effort across supply chains, including retailers, manufacturers and local authorities. Just yesterday, a new business-led report revealed that waste packaging and food leftovers from the Christmas period will have cost councils £72m. The report stated that the “dysfunctional” nature of waste management in England can only be combatted by a more consistent recycling system that works for all companies and is fairer to local councils.

Prominent food waste campaigners Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tristram Stuart have consistently called both on the UK Government and supermarket retailers to step up efforts. The retail sector has not entirely neglected its food waste responsibilities, however; Sainsbury’s is investing £1m to trial new food waste projects in towns across the UK, while many supermarkets have introduced specific ‘wonky’ ranges in an effort to drive consumer behaviour change.

According to WRAP estimates, more than 15mt of food is wasted in the UK each year, compared with around 41mt of food that is purchased. A small minority of this waste (0.2mt) comes from the retail and wholesale sectors, with the majority (11.7mt) coming from the manufacturer, supplier and household stages.

George Ogleby

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