WRAP: Food redistribution by UK organisations reached record high in 2021, likely to keep rising

Pictured: Produce ready for redistribution. Image: Jaffa

WRAP has today published its latest annual figures on surplus food redistribution in the UK, accounting for all redistribution carried out by retailers, manufacturers, food services firms and hospitality businesses. Collectively, in partnership with charities, community organisations and other platforms, these businesses redistributed more than 106,000 tonnes of surplus food with an estimated value of some £330m.

Retail was the largest supplier of surplus food to the charitable sector. The hospitality and food service sector was the sector which increased its level of redistribution the most year-on-year.

In tonnage terms, 16% more food was redistributed by UK firms in 2021 than in 2020. 2020 itself was a record year for redistribution, with businesses keen to avoid waste caused by closures forced by lockdown restrictions and to support communities through the pandemic. 2019-2020 saw a 45% increase, in tonnage terms, in food redistribution.

Redistribution levels may well rise again in 2022. Businesses are proving keen to respond to the cost-of-living crisis by working with the public and charity sector – or with other businesses – to provide community groups and low-income households with low-cost or free food. Firms to have launched or expanded redistribution initiatives recently include KFC UK & Ireland and The Co-op.

But WRAP is warning that progress is not guaranteed, with much still to do to end the wasting of food which is fit for human consumption. The NGO’s latest figures show that 200,000 tonnes of food which could be redistributed went to waste in 2021, despite increased efforts to prevent waste. And, of course, there is much food still going to waste at the consumer level, which continues to account for the majority of the UK’s food waste mountain (60-70%).

“It’s devastating to see how much food continues to be wasted from supply chains when so many people are struggling to afford the basics, and food redistributors say they can take more,” said WRAP’s director of collaboration and change Catherine David said.

Whilst we welcome the increased amount of food being redistributed in the UK, we know there is a huge amount of good food – 200,000 tonnes of it every year – that could be feeding people. Wasting food also feeds climate change, as all the resources taken to produce the food are thrown in the bin with it.”

To this point, WRAP published research last year revealing that mitigating all poultry, milk and potato waste in the UK would have the same climate impact, in a year, as planting 5.4 million trees.

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