WRAP: 2020 was record year for food redistribution by UK firms

More than 92,000 tonnes of surplus food was redistributed in the UK last year, marking a 45% year-on-year increase, partly caused by the response to Covid-19.

Image: Neighbourly 

Image: Neighbourly 

That is according to a new report published by WRAP on Thursday (10 June). The report charts trends in surplus food redistribution across the UK on an annual basis, starting in 2015, covering items redistributed through charitable and commercial channels.

Charitable channels include businesses and individuals donating to local food banks or other charities, as well as business partnerships with redistribution platforms such as FareShare or Neighbourly. WRAP’s definition of commercial channels covers any business that redistributes surplus food for a profit.

Across both channels, more than 92,000 tonnes of food were redistributed during 2020, up from some 28,500 tonnes in 2015 and 63,000 tonnes in 2019. More than one-third (38%) of the year-on-year increase is directly attributable to Covid-19, according to WRAP, with businesses such as restaurants, pubs and foodservice firms having to change their supply chain arrangements to cope with falling demand.

WRAP has valued the food redistributed in 2020 alone at £280m. The cumulative value of salvaged food from 2015 is estimated to stand just shy of £1bn.  

A combination of increased business ambition and partnerships and increased grant funding from the Government helped to deliver such a strong result, WRAP said in a statement. The organisation stated that, between itself and the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), £12m in grant funding was issued during 2020. This figure includes the £3.8m Covid-19 Emergency Surplus Food Grant scheme and the £3m Resource Action Fund Food Waste Prevention Grants.

However, WRAP is warning that organisations at all parts of the value chain must not be complacent, as there is still much work to be done to ensure that the UK delivers against the UN commitment to halve food waste by 2030.

“We know there is the potential to more than double the amount of food redistributed so, while I welcome these figures, I would ask all of those involved to redouble their efforts and make full use of WRAP’s resources and support,” the organisation’s chief executive Marcus Gover said.

While redistribution is an important tool, it is not the [single] answer to food waste. Priority must be given to reducing surplus and waste in the first place. This is critical for business efficiency and essential if we are to achieve our environmental objectives.”

Industry collaboration

WRAP’s longest-standing industry collaboration in operation is the Courtauld Commitment, which sets industry-wide targets on food waste, water stress and emissions.

The headline target on food waste is to reduce waste by 20% post-farmgate, across the UK, on a person-by-person basis. The baseline year is 2015 and the deadline is 2025. 2020 was not a formal reporting year for the commitment, so updated figures on progress are due this year.

Building on the Commitment, WRAP partnered with the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) in 2018 to launch a food waste reduction roadmap, in the hopes of setting more ambitious targets, identifying specific issues at specific parts of the food value chain and increasing collaboration. The Roadmap has been supported by dozens of businesses and, in 2020, supported the mitigation of 180,000 tonnes of food waste, valued at £300m.

WRAP has this month published new guidance on how retailers can reduce waste across ‘own label’ food lines across the supply chain, to support the retailer members of the Roadmap.

Sarah George  



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