Waste Not
UK Retailers Increase Efforts To Decrease Food Waste

Coca-Cola Enterprises, Unilever, AB InBev, Nestlé, and 45 other retailers, manufacturers and brands have all recommitted to a joint reduction of food and drink waste by 1.1 million metric tons by 2015.

This pledge is part of a three-phase program called the Courtauld Commitment, launched in 2005. The first phase lasted four years and prevented 1.2 million tons of food and packaging waste. Phase 2, launched in 2012, added supply chain waste reduction to the agreement, with the final results released later this year. To date, the signatories of the agreement have diverted 2.3 million tons of waste, valued at around £3.5 billion ($5.37 billion).

Phase 3 promises to be the most ambitious yet, with a high standard set for the future of these companies. The goals are:

  • Design out packaging growth (In 2008, there was zero growth in the packaging sector. This is a difficult trend to continue.)
  • Reduce household food and drink waste by 5% (9% in real terms, in order to meet the increase in demand)
  • Reduce grocery waste by 8% in real terms
  • Maximize recycled content
  • Commit to no increase in the carbon impact of packaging (a 3% reduction in real terms)

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which oversees the volunteer pledge that includes all major UK grocery chains including Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Aldi, and the Co-operative, projects that if these reduction goals are met, phase 3 will reduce CO2 emissions by 2.9 metric tons and bring £1.6 billion ($2.46 billion) in cost benefits to consumers and business.

UK grocery chains always seem to be at the cutting edge of sustainability. Last fall, Waitrose announced it had achieved zero food waste two months before its end-of-2012 goal; and just last month, The Co-operative announced new lighter packaging for wine bottles. With innovations such as these, UK retailers are serving as standard bearers for waste reduction and forward thinking.

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