11 June 2021 by James Langley

‘Huge rise’ in food redistribution in 2020

Sustainability charity WRAP has reported a “huge rise” in surplus food redistribution in 2020, with 92,000 tonnes prevented from going to waste.

Worth £280 million, the food represented the equivalent of 220 million meals, WRAP said.

Through a £900,000 grant, redistribution network FareShare doubled the amount of food it delivered during the pandemic across 16 regions in England (picture: FareShare)

The sustainability charity published a report, ‘Surplus food redistribution in the UK 2015 – 2020’, yesterday (10 June).

The report shows there was a 65% increase in the tonnages of surplus food redistributed between 2018 and 2020.

Surplus food arising due to Covid-19-related disruption to the supply chain contributed “significantly” to the increases in 2020, WRAP said, linked to around 38% of the total.

However, the sustainability charity claimed most of the increase was unrelated to Covid-19 but driven by the expanding capacity and capabilities of redistribution organisations, alongside continuing growth in the amounts of surplus food businesses make available.

Marcus Gover, WRAP CEO, said: “While I welcome these figures, I would ask all of those involved redouble their efforts and make full use of WRAP’s resources and support.

“While redistribution is an important tool, it is not the answer to food waste. Priority must be given to reducing surplus and waste in the first place. This is critical for business efficiency and essential if we are to achieve our environmental objectives.”

In November 2020 WRAP said tackling food waste was its “top priority” (see letsrecycle.com story).

Grant funding

Grant funding by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) facilitated increases in availability, capacity and capabilities in 2020, WRAP said, potentially enabling more than 50% of the increase in tonnages.

Rebecca Pow is Defra’s food waste prevention minister

By December 2020, WRAP had awarded almost £7 million to redistribution organisations in England under two government grant schemes.

The sustainability charity awarded £3.8 million through the Covid-19 Emergency Surplus Food Grant to not-for-profit organisations. In total, 316 emergency grants including 85 top up grants were awarded to more than 231 charities.

WRAP also awarded £3 million under the Resource Action Fund Food Waste Prevention Grants to small- and large-scale projects.

Defra food waste prevention minister Rebecca Pow said: “Our funding supported this great effort and helped redistribution groups manage more food surplus and get it to those need it. But we cannot rest on our laurels. I encourage all businesses to help and to ensure surplus food is redistributed.”

Food redistribution

WRAP’s report shows the total food redistributed between 2015 and 2020 amounted to 320,000 tonnes, worth £970 million. This represents the equivalent of 760 million meals.

“These new statistics show significant progress in redistributing more surplus food to those who need it”

Ben Elliot, Defra’s food waste champion

Since UK data was first reported in 2015, redistribution has tripled. Two-thirds of the total increase in 2020 is from retail and manufacturing, while 23% came from hospitality and food service sector and farms.

Charitable redistribution increased more than five-fold since records began in 2015 and made up 70% of the total tonnage in 2020, with commercial redistribution showing a near two-fold increase since 2015.

Chilled foods including fresh meat, fish, eggs, dairy and chilled pre-prepared items made up the largest proportion of surplus food in 2020 (29%), followed by ambient and drinks at 26% and fresh produce at 26%.

Welcoming WRAP’s report, Defra’s food waste champion Ben Elliot, said: “These new statistics show significant progress in redistributing more surplus food to those who need it. This is an amazing trend that I urge everyone to help continue in the future.”

Related links
Surplus food redistribution in the UK 2015 – 2020


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