The UK’s biggest grocers have pledged to disclose the volume of food discarded by their stores in an effort to cut down on the millions of tonnes wasted each year.
Retailers have been under pressure to act after Tesco admitted it generated 28,500 tonnes of food waste at its stores and distribution centres in the first six months of last year alone.
The chain said two-thirds of bagged salad was thrown out, either in-store or by shoppers, and 40% of apples were wasted.
Green campaigners say poor buying and marketing practices contribute to the 15m-tonne pile of food discarded in the UK each year according to the government’s waste reduction advisory body, Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap).
In response, the retail industry organisation, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), will announce that the big four supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons as well as Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-op will release regular updates on the amount of food wasted in their stores. The first data will be published early in 2015.
Green campaigners said however that retailers needed to do more. Vicki Hird, a food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Food waste has been growing over the last few decades because of the way supermarkets have driven consumption. These figures will indicate how over-purchasing and other poor buying practices are occurring, but retailers need to really examine whether their marketing strategies are fit for purpose in today’s resource-confined world.”
Andrew Opie, director of food sustainability at the BRC, said he believed the new reporting regime would help drive change as part of a broader effort to make retailers more sustainable.
The industry will also commit to cutting absolute carbon emissions by 25%, based on 2005 levels, by 2020. That compares to a European target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.
Between 2005 and 2013 retailers have cut total emissions from their stores by just 8% because more outlets have opened, offsetting an average 30% cut in the amount of carbon emitted per store.
However, retailers cut the amount of waste they sent to landfill sites to 6% in 2013 compared with 47% in 2005. They are now committed to sending just 1% of waste to landfill by 2020.
Opie criticised the government’s focus on “marginal waste issues” such as plastic bags, where there are plans to introduce a tax in England in line with systems in place in Wales and Northern Ireland.
“That has been a bit of a distraction from bigger issues on waste,” he said. “Once the issue around carrier bags is over we can really concentrate on the areas which will make the most difference.”
Opie said it was important to look at the whole life-cycle of products, from production to selling, use and disposal, to help cut down on waste and create a “circular economy” in which resources could be re-used.
Source: The Guardian