UK supermarkets slash food waste by 20,000 tonnes

The UK's leading retailers have banded together to reduce supermarket food waste by 20,000 tonnes over the past year, according to a new report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Asda, Co-operative Food, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose are among the retailers who reduced their food waste from 200,000 to 180,000 tonnes in a year.

The BRC report has been independently collated by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which along with the retailers agreed to a set of common rules to ensure the transparency of the report.

The report notes that currently retailers account for just over 1% of the estimated annual 15m tonnes of UK food waste. However it said the retailer’s position at the heart of the supply chain means it can influence and potentially reduce the amount of food waste occurring during the supply chain and in households.

BRC director of food & sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: “While we welcome the fact that retail food waste levels are falling, it is nevertheless important to continue to focus attention and efforts on where the biggest reductions in food waste can be made and that is in the supply chain and at home. As an industry, we have a huge contribution to make and we will continue our work with suppliers and customers to build on the progress we have already achieved.”

Case studies

Tesco found that 41% of its food waste occurred within the bakery departments. To reduce bakery waste it implemented a two year strategy which saw bakers bake less bread more often, rather than larger volumes in one bulk. Tesco also worked with suppliers to source ingredients to extend the shelf life of products. As well as donating surplus food to charities to cut even more waste.

Asda has created clearer labels and dating codes to avoid confusion in households about the expiratory dates of food. It also reviewed packaging across its entire product line to protect food, keeping it fresh for longer.

Last year Sainsbury’s partnered with waste management specialists Biffa to create an innovative facility allowing the store in Cannock to run on power generated from the supermarket’s surplus food waste.

Last month M&S announced the launch of a nationwide food redistribution scheme which will see 150 of the supermarket’s biggest stores pass surplus food onto a host of local charities with the help of charity Neighbourly.

Outside of the retail industry, a group of businesses and NGOs including Unilever and WWF have joined a new coalition organisation tasked with inspiring companies to adopt comprehensive food waste programmes.

BRC Food Waste Report

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie