Grocery supply chains worth £300m in food waste war, finds WRAP

Grocery retailers and supply chain operators are missing out on a £300m windfall, and the chance to increase supply-chain redistribution streams four-fold, by failing to tackle food waste issues, new analysis from WRAP has revealed.

In a review of surplus food and food waste from UK food manufacturers and grocery retailers, the report highlighted that a total of 1.1 million tonnes of avoidable food waste in the sector could either be redistributed to people or diverted to animal feed.

WRAP director Dr Richard Swannell said: “The report, which uses new and more robust methodologies, gives us the clearest indication yet of where, and why, food surpluses and waste occur.

“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.”

Courtauld Commitment

Food manufacturing and retail sectors in the UK account for less than 5% food surplus and waste according to the report, which also identifies that a further 450 kilotonnes (kt) of food waste a year could be prevented by 2025, a reduction of 23% compared to current total food waste levels.

The research highlights that around 270kt of current food surplus and waste streams may be suitable for redistribution. The opportunity to increase supply-chain redistribution could increase four-fold – the equivalent of at least 360 million meals – and the amount of food surplus diverted to animal feed could also increase by up to 20%.

Report findings are being shared with businesses in the food and drink sector as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2025, which calls on industry firms to pledge major reductions in food waste and carbon emissions.

Cost-effective policy

WRAP’s report came in the same week that the Renewable Energy Association (REA) released a new, independently researched report which concluded that in most scenarios, separate food and other bio-waste collections can save money for local authorities and businesses.

According to the REA, improved management of food waste can reduce GHG emissions from landfill, support the growing green gas industry, and help the UK hit its legally binding recycling target of 50% by 2020.

REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska CBE said: “Separate food waste collections is a cost-effective policy that can help us hit our recycling target, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and improve our energy security in one fell swoop.

“Many regions, including Scotland, Wales, and many regions in Europe, have realised the benefits of not letting food waste go to waste. There’s a range of companies now in the UK that are producing their own renewable heat and power from it, or even fuelling vehicles with it.

“With our 2020 recycling target fast approaching, now is the time for England to step forwards, where few businesses and only about half of local authorities are enjoying the benefits from collecting bio-waste separately.”

Community Food

In recent weeks, edie has reported on major businesses and organisations utilising innovative platforms to tackle the growing problem of food waste.

Earlier this year, Tesco commenced a national roll-out of its innovative online Community Food Connection, which redirects surplus food from stores to provide millions of meals to local charities and community groups across the country. The supermarket chain’s announcement was followed by a rallying call to innovators to introduce further waste reduction solutions at this week’s edie Live event.

Britain’s largest food redistribution charity, FareShare, recently told food waste campaigners to stop ‘beating up the supermarkets’ and instead look further up the supply chain at the untapped redistribution potential of thousands of processors and manufacturers.

Richard Swannel at edie’s Resource Revolution conference

WRAP’s Richard Swannel will be speaking about ‘why a national aproach is needed for a resource revolution’ at edie’s upcoming Resource Revolution Conference.

Taking place on 5 July, the edie Resource Revolution Conference provides resource management, sustainability, waste, product, supply chain and design professionals with tools they need to rethink their approach to resource use and waste outputs, drive organisational efficiencies, behaviour change and profitability, and effect a revolution in their company’s sustainability credentials.

Find out more about the Conference and register to attend here

George Ogleby

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