Cost of food and packaging waste rises by £450 per tonne
The grocery retail sector is throwing away £6.9bn worth of materials in its supply chain, according to new research published by WRAP.
This represents some 7% of the value of food and drink sales to households, money that could be used to increase exports or investment to help individual businesses and the economy to grow.
The figure is also almost 30% higher than previous estimates by WRAP (£5bn).
In fact, the previous figure of the cost per tonne of food and packaging waste set at £500/tonne is now "dated", and is instead a "staggering" £950/tonne. This includes the cost of the food and ingredients, energy and water costs, disposal costs and lost profit.
"By focusing on the opportunities for improving waste prevention, businesses can add the savings benefit straight to their bottom line," said WRAP.
Environmental specialists claimed the report shows retailers and food manufacturers need to move their focus to waste prevention given that supply chains were now under "greater scrutiny".
WRAP has calculated that the grocery retail chain produces some 6.5Mt of waste, 4.9Mt of which is from food and drink manufacturers and the remainder from retailers.
The majority of manufacturing waste is food (3.9Mt), with 1.3Mt recycled and 2Mt spread onto land. Of the packaging waste created by food and manufacturers (0.5Mt), 60% (0.3Mt) is recycled and 20% (0.1Mt) still ends up in landfill.
Packaging makes up the lion's share of waste from retailers (1.2Mt), over 80% of which is recycled (not including that from households). However, of the food waste created by retailers (0.4Mt), just 0.02Mt is sent to anaerobic digestion.
WRAP's new study also examines waste across the supply chain and shows how waste is managed, where food is being redistributed and where it is used as an ingredient in animal feed. The report also assesses other materials arising from the production of food.
The report demonstrates a "significant opportunity" to reduce food, drink and packaging waste. It supports the need for businesses to work to reduce their own waste, but also to work collaboratively across the supply chain to unlock waste prevention solutions.
"It's through driving waste prevention that the greatest financial and environmental benefits can be achieved," the report reads.
Commenting on the report, Jamie Pitcairn, Scotland director at consultants Ricardo-AEA, said it is the lack of overall responsibility in the chain that results in wastage.
"With greater pressure on resources supply chains will now come under greater scrutiny. Resource use is not properly accounted for across supply chains and waste at each stage is not seen, which results in a piecemeal approach across the chain.
"There needs to be a shortening of the chain, with more transparency which will expose the inefficiencies and enable new leaner practices to be adopted," he added.
A supply chain waste prevention target was introduced into the Courtauld Commitment Phase 2 - WRAP's voluntary agreement with the sector - in 2010. Progress towards this will be reported sometime this autumn.
WRAP's report follows a study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation last month, which put the cost of food waste to the world's economy at £470bn.