Manufacturing giants slash food waste by 30%

The UK's largest food and drinks manufacturers have collectively reduced their food waste by 30% over the past eight years, on a per capita basis.

Food waste was down on both an operational and supply chain basis. Stock image. 

Food waste was down on both an operational and supply chain basis. Stock image. 

That is a key conclusion of the latest annual progress report from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the industry body representing corporates and SMEs across the sector.

The report documents progress towards the sustainability targets outlined in the FDF’s ‘Ambition 2025’ strategy, which is headlined by commitments to help members reduce absolute CO2 emissions by 55%, against a 1990 baseline, and to support year-on-year reductions in food waste on a “farm to fork” basis.

On the former, the progress report reveals that FDF members have collectively halved their absolute CO2 emissions, putting them on-track to meeting the 2025 goal. This target was developed in line with the original 2008 Climate Change Act, with a longer-term aim set to be developed this year in light of the Act being amended in 2019 to set a national deadline of 2050 for net-zero.

As for food waste, the report highlights how FDF members collectively reduced food waste across their operations by almost one-third (30%) between 2011 and 2019. This is equivalent to 400,000 tonnes. Within this same period, waste from supply chains was also down 13.4%.

The FDF partially attributes strong progress across food waste within the last year to its signing of the UK Government’s ‘Step Up to the Plate’ pledge, which binds signatories to halve food waste by 2030, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3. Convened by Defra, the pledge has been signed by several FDF member firms and other big names across the food and drink sector, including Costa Coffee, Waitrose & Partners, Tesco and Sainsbury’s

WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment and accompanying food waste reduction roadmap, also aligned with SDG 12.3, have also been signed by the FDF itself and several of its largest members such as Nestle and Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

“Our members have taken truly impressive steps to reduce food waste,” the FDF’s chief scientific officer Helen Munday said.

“The way we do business still needs to be transformed. Over the coming year, the FDF will be undertaking a major mid-term review of Ambition 2025 to ensure it reflects our vision for a thriving, responsible and sustainable food and drink industry.”

No time to waste

The publication of the FDF’s report comes the week after WRAP published updated food waste figures for 2018. The data covers all food wasted across the UK and across its international supply chains.

According to WRAP, almost half a million tonnes (480,000) less food was wasted in the UK in 2018 than in 2015, representing a 20% reduction in total food waste per person against a 2007 baseline.

Food waste from businesses and households alike was down, but WRAP warned that further action will be needed to tackle domestic and supply chain waste if the UK is to deliver its contribution to SDG 12.3 in full.  Since 2015, businesses have recorded, on average, a food waste reduction of just 4% in their supply chains.

Action to combat food waste by these actors seems to have taken off in the past 12 months – given the issue’s connections to community, health and wellbeing, and, ultimately, the economy. Rising concern has been compounded by the emergence of innovative ways to tackle food waste, from C2C redistribution apps like OLIO and B2B redistribution platforms like Neighbourly and Fareshare, to AI-enabled technologies.

But WRAP is also urging individuals, businesses and policymakers to recognise the importance of tackling food waste in the transition to net-zero. Landfilled food releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over time, making it a contributor to climate change. The UK’s own Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommends that food waste is cut by one-fifth between 2021 and 2050 in order to reach net-zero.

As a first step for businesses, WRAP is advocating for annual reporting on food waste from all large firms, on a voluntary basis. Consultations on mandatory reporting of this data are due to begin at the UK Government this year, as part of the implementation of its Resources and Waste Strategy.

Sarah George



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