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1m tonnes of waste prevented by Courtauld

22 September 2010

The UK’s grocery sector has prevented 1.2m tonnes of food and packaging waste from entering the household waste stream over the past five years, figures published by WRAP show

The results of the first phase of the Courtauld Commitment – a responsibility deal between the UK grocery sector and WRAP and delivered in partnership with local authorities - show a total of 670,000 tonnes of food waste and 520,000 tonnes of packaging have been avoided across the UK between 2005 and 2009.

Collectively, this avoided waste could have filled 128,000 standard refuse trucks, which bumper to bumper would stretch from Truro to Inverness. The value of this avoided food and packaging waste is estimated at £1.8 billion and the CO2 equivalent emissions avoided amount to around 3.3 million tonnes, the same as stopping half a million around-the-world flights.

This means two of the three Courtauld targets have been achieved - to design out packaging waste growth (zero growth achieved in 2008) and reduce food waste by 155,000 tonnes per year (exceeded with 270,000 tonnes per year less food waste arising in 2009/10 than in 2007/08).

A third target - to reduce the total amount of packaging waste over the same period – has not been achieved. Total packaging has consistently remained at approximately 2.9 million tonnes between 2006 and 2009.

The main reason behind this is a 6.4% increase in grocery sales volumes since the agreement began in 2005 and participating retailers taking a greater proportion of the market for beer and wine. Bottles and cans for beer, wine and cider represent a third of all grocery packaging by weight.

However, on average, across the range of groceries we buy packaging has reduced by around 4% for each product, whether that is through using more concentrated detergents, or through lightweight cans.

Liz Goodwin, CEO at WRAP, which manages the Courtauld Commitment, said the responsibility deal between the public and private sector had been critical in tackling packaging and food waste:

“This is good progress particularly against the backdrop of an unexpected increase in grocery sales. Bringing together major players, including all the big supermarkets, and drawing on our combined expertise, is really helping householders put less packaging and food waste in their bins.

“We’re especially pleased with the food waste reduction which is way beyond target. It shows how a collaborative approach between the grocery sector, consumers and local authorities can work to reduce waste and save people money.

The evidence shows that more people are now aware that food waste is an issue, and are choosing to do something about it. More people are checking their cupboards before they shop, making lists and date labels are better understood. All of this helps UK shoppers make the most of the food they buy, waste less and save money.

“What we do next – WRAP, the grocery sector and local authorities - is important. The next phase of the Courtauld Commitment looks more at the food and packaging waste from manufacture to how they’re used in households. It’s not enough to just focus on packaging and weight – the wider carbon impact also counts – and that’s what we will be doing.

“39 major retailers, brands and manufacturers are on board with that so the future looks promising. But there’s always more that can be done and we are working closely with the industry to help reduce the environmental impact of things we all buy,” she added.

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