WRAP: UK food sector 'needs to pick up the pace' on waste

UK businesses diverted £300m worth of food from waste this year, but the sector needs to accelerate action if it is to meet the Courtauld Commitment's environmental targets for 2025.

The pandemic has presented new challenges and opportunities for addressing food waste

The pandemic has presented new challenges and opportunities for addressing food waste

That is according to WRAP’s latest annual review of the Commitment, which is designed to help businesses reduce their waste in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a process which will also reduce their climate impact.

As 2020 is not a formal reporting year for the Commitment, the updated review does not provide in-depth data on a company-by-company basis. However, it reveals that signatories of WRAP’s food waste reduction roadmap have collectively prevented 180,000 tonnes of food from becoming waste in the past 12 months and values this food at £300m+.

Launched in September 2018 as a collaborative effort between WRAP and IGD, the Roadmap was designed to help large businesses across all parts of the UK’s food value chain to halve food waste across their operations, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3. Some 70 businesses signed up to the Roadmap this year.

WRAP praises these businesses in the report, for showing ambition and accountability in spite of the challenges posed by lockdown restrictions. It also states that businesses are improving and expanding efforts to engage the general public on food waste, given that most food waste in the UK happens at home, and to champion sustainable water stewardship. On the latter, more than 80 Courtauld signatories undertook water replenishment programmes this year, collectively delivering 750 million litres of water.

Nonetheless, WRAP is warning that the national food and beverage sector, as a whole, is failing to align with the Commitment’s aims. Further action on food waste at farms and in homes is needed if the sector is to cut food waste by 20% across the value chain, according to the report.

Another area where progress has been slow is reducing emissions associated with the production and consumption of food. A 20% reduction is also targeted here. WRAP is urging businesses to improve their data by implementing a single set of requests to suppliers for climate information.

Additionally, WRAP believes more work is needed on the Commitment’s water stewardship targets. Only one-third of signatories are supporting collective action projects on this issue. The organisation will now work to develop a Roadmap on water security, which will take a similar format to the food waste roadmap.

“The global pandemic has tested us like nothing we have faced before in our lifetimes; It has pushed supply chains and services to breaking point, but it has also unleashed innovative thinking and decisive action,” WRAP’s chief executive Marcus Gover said.

“We now need to harness that agility and ingenuity to tackle the greatest challenges of our generation: fixing our unsustainable global food system so that it enables both people and planet to thrive.”

Food for thought

WRAP, along with other groups including the British Retail Consortium, is currently supporting a new network of "food waste champions" set up to address food waste and poverty during Covid-19 and beyond.

Businesses involved in the network include Bakkavor, Greencore, Mars, Nestle, Nomad Foods, Premier Foods, Samworth Brothers, Unilever and Upfield and Coca-Cola. 

Sarah George



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