Large supermarkets and manufacturers are signing up to efforts to drive down the UK’s annual £20bn food waste bill by committing to halving waste from “farm to fork” by 2030.
A roadmap being published on Tuesday by the government’s waste reduction body, Wrap, and the food and grocery charity IGD sets a series of milestones for businesses to reduce waste at every stage of the supply chain. The annual bill is equivalent to more than £300 per UK citizen.
The voluntary scheme aims to ensure the UK meets the UN’s sustainable development target (specifically target 12.3) of halving per capita global food waste at retail and consumer level and through production and supply chains by 2030. The UN estimates global food waste causes about $940bn (£770bn) a year in economic losses. It says a third of the world’s food is wasted while one in nine people remain malnourished.
By September 2019, the roadmap aims to have all major UK retailers and half of other large producers and suppliers measuring, reporting and acting on food waste. By 2026, all large food businesses should have a target to cut waste from their operations.
Supermarkets have been criticised for contributing to the UK’s food waste mountain by sticking rigidly to quality specifications and routinely rejecting mis-shapen, but edible, produce grown by suppliers. They have also been urged to do more to redistribute edible items to the needy via food banks and charities.
Eighty-nine early signatories, including the UK’s biggest supermarkets as well as food producers, manufacturers and restaurant chains, have committed to the plan. They include Britain’s largest retailer, Tesco, which will announce on Tuesday that 27 of its biggest suppliers, as well as Booker, which Tesco merged with this year, will publish data on food waste for the first time.
Ten of Tesco’s branded suppliers including Coca-Cola, Mars, Nestlé and Unilever will also commit to the project within the next 12 months.
Addressing a New York event organised by Champions 12.3, a coalition of governments, businesses and international organisations committed to accelerating progress toward the 12.3 goal, its chair, the Tesco chief executive, Dave Lewis, will say: “Every year, a third of the world’s food goes to waste – that’s the equivalent of 1.3bn tonnes of food being thrown away – and we think that’s simply not right. We believe that what gets measured gets managed.”
Tesco became the first UK retailer to publish the amount of food wasted in its operations in 2013. It is now more than 70% towards its target that no food that is safe for human consumption goes to waste.
Tackling food waste in the home is more complex. This year, Sainsbury’sabandoned a multimillion-pound project to halve food waste in a designated town, Swadlincote in south Derbyshire, after a year-long trial produced disappointing results. The retailer had planned to spend £10m over five years to develop a network of similar schemes across the UK.
Clare Oxborrow, a senior food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “All companies along the supply chain should publicise their food waste data and commit to concerted long-term action, so that food waste is halved by 2030, as set out in the sustainable development goals.”