The figures combine data from Asda, the Co-operative Food, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – making up 87.3% of the UK grocery market. They reveal that, of the estimated 15 million tonnes of food thrown away in the UK each year, 200,000 tonnes comes from these retailers, while more than half is generated in the home. 

WRAP, which collated the data, has estimated there was a 10% reduction in food and drink waste by grocery retailers and manufacturers between 2007 and 2012.

BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie said: “Our members are pleased to introduce new levels of transparency into the supply chain and today’s figures tell a positive story about the vast efforts grocery retailers have made to reduce their food waste to only 1.3% of the total.

“At the same time, we all need to continue to focus on where we can make the biggest reductions in food waste and that is in the supply chain and the home. We have a huge contribution to make and will continue our work with suppliers and consumers to build on the progress we have already made.”

Behaviour change

Beyond reducing food waste from their own operations, the BRC says supermarkets are “acutely aware of their customers’ desire to get the most value from the food they buy”. It points to WRAP’s Love Food, Hate Waste campaign, which sees supermarkets encourage customers to reduce household food waste. WRAP estimates household food waste has been cut by 15% as a result of the behaviour change initiative.

The new figures also highlight how supermarkets are working with farmers and producer groups to tackle food waste and losses in agriculture; and working with organisations such as FareShare, FoodCycle and Community Shop to redistribute unsold surplus food to those who need it.

“Retailers will continue to work hard to reduce food waste even further working in partnership with Government and the food industry to tackle the big targets in the supply chain and waste in the home,” the BRC concluded. 

One of edie’s most-read stories of 2014 came when Sainsbury’s went a step further with its food waste; powering its Cannock store on electricity generated solely from waste produce. View more food waste stories here.

The supermarket food waste figures form part of the BRC’s annual progress report on its A Better Retailing Climate initiative, which reports on the retail industry’s progress on sustainability and environmental issues. The full progress report will be published on 29 January, 2015.

Luke Nicholls

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