However, its says that 0.7m tonnes of material, which could have become waste, is either being redistributed to people (47,000 tonnes; the equivalent of 90m meals a year) or diverted to animal feed.
Looking ahead, action to increase prevention of food waste could save businesses £300m a year, according to WRAP.
The report, Quantification of food surplus, waste and related materials in the grocery supply chain, funded mainly by Defra and Welsh Government, is the most comprehensive review of surplus food and food waste from UK food manufacturers and grocery retailers.
It highlights the overall avoidable food waste figures (1.1mt) for the sector but, for the first time, breaks it down into manufacturing sub-sectors, such as meat and dairy.
Volumes of avoidable food waste occurring in the top five manufacturing sub-sectors (and the individual % of total avoidable manufacturing food waste for that sub-sector) are:
- Dairy products – 200kt (23%)
- Meat, poultry and fish – 160kt (18%)
- Ambient products – 130kt (15%)
- Fresh fruit & vegetable processing – 100kt (11%)
- Bakery, cake and cereals – 90kt (10%)
The report also shows that the food manufacturing and retail sectors in the UK are highly efficient, with less than 5% food surplus and waste, and that food waste levels are lower than previously reported.
The report identifies that a further 450kt of food waste a year could be prevented by 2025, a reduction of 23% compared to total food waste levels reported today. Realising this potential, in particular preventing food from being wasted in the first place and increasing redistribution will be hugely challenging.
The research also identifies that of the current food surplus and waste, around 270kt may be suitable for redistribution. Even after efforts to prevent food waste arising in the supply chain (potentially saving businesses £300m a year), there will still be the opportunity to increase redistribution four-fold, to the equivalent of at least 360m meals.
The amount of food surplus diverted to animal feed could also increase by up to 20%.
Courtauld Commitment 2025
Insights from the report – including the causes, recommended actions and associated savings – are being shared with businesses in the food and drink sector as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2025.
The 10-year voluntary agreement managed by WRAP is set to make UK food and drink production and consumption more sustainable. Using these insights businesses can focus action on areas that will have most impact; helping to achieve the targets from Courtauld and Welsh Government, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.
Dr Richard Swannell, Director at WRAP – “Through a combination of prevention, redistribution to people and diversion to animal feed, the grocery supply chain could, in the next 10 years, almost halve its avoidable food waste, from 2009 when we first started work in this area”
Dr Richard Swannell, Director at WRAP, said: “Today’s report, which uses new and more robust methodologies, gives us the clearest indication yet of where, and why, food surpluses and waste occur. Through a combination of prevention, redistribution to people and diversion to animal feed, the grocery supply chain could, in the next 10 years, almost halve its avoidable food waste, from 2009 when we first started work in this area. This will significantly contribute to delivering the Courtauld 2025 food waste prevention target.”
To help food manufacturers and retailers tackle the food surplus and waste, WRAP is providing support through new technical guidance, tools and case studies.
This includes new Guidance for Food and Drink Manufacturers and Retailers on the Use of Food Surplus as Animal Feed, also published today. This resource helps identify, manage and divert food surplus to animal feed in line with relevant legislation. It is a companion piece to WRAP’s Framework for Effective Redistribution Partnerships, which helps people to set up redistribution arrangements between retailers, manufacturers and charities.
This work builds on a Ministerial roundtable which helped focus attention on the opportunities for industry action, and the Courtauld 3 waste prevention working group, set up last year to help develop practical solutions and evidence. Further progress will be facilitated and tracked through Courtauld 2025 Working Groups (one of which will focus on redistribution) and reporting.