Large food businesses are pledging to halve the UK’s food waste bill by 2030, and tackle waste from farm to fork, by signing up to support the new Food Waste Reduction Roadmap.
The scheme has been developed by the government’s waste reduction body, Wrap, and the food and grocery charity IGD. It’s designed to combat the massive 10m tonnes of food waste produced from farm to fork in the UK each year, which creates huge economic, social and environmental impact, and costs the UK economy £20bn annually.
The roadmap, which launched on 25 September, sets out ambitious milestones for retailers, food producers, manufacturers and food services to reduce waste at every stage of the supply chain.
By September 2019, the aim is for 50% of food businesses to have a target for food waste reduction across their UK operations, and be measuring and publicly reporting on food waste data and progress towards targets.
It commits companies to take action on food waste, in UK operations and in partnership with suppliers, and provides guidance to business for reducing consumer food waste, too. Companies will be encouraged to develop new approaches to food date labeling, innovation and consumer awareness.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on how the supermarkets that have signed up support the new roadmap.
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Who is supporting the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap?
Wrap aims to sign up 50% of the UK’s largest 250 food businesses to the voluntary scheme by 2019, and an ambitious 100% by 2026. At the September 2018 launch, 90 companies and trade bodies were signed up – including the following large supermarket chains: Aldi, Asda, Central England Co-operative, Iceland, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Musgrave, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-operative Group and Waitrose.
A host of large food manufacturers also signaled support for the Roadmap, including Coca-Cola, Hovis, Kraft Heinz UK, Nestlé UK & Ireland, Procter & Gamble UK and Unilever UK. Among the hospitality and food service businesses to sign up were Accor Hotel Services, Nando’s UK & Ireland and Pizza Hut Restaurants.
How are supermarkets already tackling food waste?
Of course, food waste isn’t a new concern. Supermarkets and other food retailers have already begun implementing schemes designed to reduce the amount of surplus or wasted food. Below, we’ve picked out some recent examples:
Tesco In May 2018, Tesco announced that it would be ditching ‘best-before’ dates on 70 packed fruit and veg lines, in one of a number of bids to cut food waste at home and in store. It hopes that this will stop consumers from throwing away food that’s still edible, and that in-store staff will leave edible food on the shelves for longer. The supermarket had aimed to completely stop the waste of edible food in its operations by the end of 2017, but it missed this target.
Morrisons As part of a move to reduce egg wastage, Morrisons rolled out a choose-your-own egg stand in 200 of its stores. It allows shoppers to select between one and thirty free-range eggs at a time, so smaller households aren’t held to buying half a dozen eggs that they may not use.
Gail’s Bakery As part of its sustainability efforts, bakery chain Gail’s announced that it will create a sourdough loaf, a third of which is made from surplus bread. The Waste bread will cost £4.20, and will be available from 11 October at 10 stores.
What about plastic waste?
The problem with plastic is well covered in the news, and for good reason. In May 2018, we investigated how much plastic packaging was recyclable from a basket of 27 of the most popular own-brand items from the 10 big supermarket chains. Depending on the supermarket, between 12% and 22% of it was not recyclable: a significant amount of waste.
So what’s being done to combat this? Almost all of the UK’s major supermarket chains have signed up to Wrap’s Plastics Pact, which (similarly to the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap) brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain, UK governments and NGOs. The government plans to achieve ‘zero avoidable waste’ by 2050, and plans a series of initiatives including a deposit scheme for plastic bottles. You can find out more about the work that’s going on to reduce plastic waste, as well as how retailers fared in our May investigation, by checking out our roundup of what supermarkets are doing about plastic.
While the idea of plastic-free food shopping sounds appealing, some claim that it would lead to a greater amount of food waste as plastic food packaging protects food from damage and helps it last longer. We’ll be looking into the debate around food versus plastic waste more closely in the coming months.
How can I reduce my food and plastic waste?
While we think there is a lot that needs to be done by the government and manufacturers to reduce both food and plastic packaging waste, there are also steps that you can take at home to do your bit:
- Portion planning Love Food Hate Waste, Wrap’s consumer campaign, recommends planning your shopping carefully and only buying what you’re likely to eat. It features an online portion planner, which works out how much food you actually need for your household. Planning meals that incorporate any remaining ingredients, such as that bit of cheddar that didn’t go in a cheese sauce or half a pack of herbs left after a roast, can also help. We’ve found five Best Buy slow cookers to transform any slightly sad-looking vegetables you have left into hearty soups and stews.
- Store food properly A major cause of waste is food not being stored correctly. Storing food in the fridge can add an average of three days to its life. Ensure your fridge is set between 0°C and 5°C, and your freezer between -18°C and -20°C. Storing food on the correct shelves in the fridge can stop contamination or spoiling too. Head over to our guide to 10 ways to keep food fresher for longer for more tips.
- Freezing Look for the snowflake symbol on your food, which indicates that it’s suitable for freezing. Batch cooking can help use up fresh ingredients, and then the leftovers can be put in the freezer for a convenient meal another day. Label the food that you freeze too, so that you can keep track of what it is and how long ago it was frozen. If you’re thinking of investing in a new freezer, check out our Best Buy fridge freezers. Looking for more space? See our pick of the best chest freezers.
- Composting If you’ve got food that’s gone off, home composting is a great way to turn kitchen waste into free soil improver. We’ve got plenty of advice on how to start and which compost bins or wormeries we’d recommend, in our compost bins advice.
- Learn the plastic symbols Recycling plastic can be confusing, given the differences across food brands and local authorities. Even with the best of intentions, it can be tricky to know what to do with the plastic that’s in front of you. For a full explanation of what packaging symbols mean, and our top tips for reducing your plastic use, see our guide on how to recycle in the UK.