Retail sector to publish food waste figures

By Amy North

The UKs biggest supermarkets have pledged to publish figures which reveal the amount of food waste they collectively throw away each year.

Under the pledge, which was unveiled in a report published by the British Retail Consortium today (January 29), Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons alongside Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and The Co-op will release regular updates on the amount of food wasted. The first data is expected to be released in 2015.

Retailers have pledged to publish data on the amount of food waste they have produced each year
Retailers have pledged to publish data on the amount of food waste they have produced each year

The BRC, which represents the UKs retail sector, today published the 2014 edition of its annual Better Retailing Climate report, which outlines progress its members have made towards increasing sustainability across a number of areas including energy, transport and waste.

In the report, BRC says that retailers are working towards a number of goals on waste prevention and reduction including work through the Courtauld Commitment and the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP).

Food waste

The report outlines two ambitions for food waste: the first is to publish the total food waste figures as a sector; and the second is to work with customers to help them purchase the correct amount of food and reduce the amount that is being wasted.

Tesco has already taken a lead on the first point when it published its food waste arisings in October 2013 (see letsrecycle.com story).

‘This is more about recognising the cause for more transparency and being able to response to that and being able to show what the sector is doing to help.’

Alice Ellison, BRC

Commenting on the food waste pledge, Alice Ellison, the BRCs environment policy advisor, told letsrecycle.com: I dont think it will impact the way that retailers are operating with regards to food waste because they are already submitting food and packaging waste figures to WRAP under the Courtauld Commitment…This is more about recognising the cause for more transparency and being able to response to that and being able to show what the sector is doing to help.

She added: The message is that retailers are doing a lot on their own both within their supply chains and with their consumers. Publishing the figures wont affect that as the good work will continue.

On waste in general, the 25 signatories have committed to a landfill diversion target of less than 1% by 2020. Ms Ellison said that this was a big commitment for the sector and while some retailers have already achieved this, such as Sainsburys (see letsrecycle.com story), others may find it more difficult for example those in the DIY sector.

Supermarket chain Tesco was the first retailer to publish data on its food waste arisings
Supermarket chain Tesco was the first retailer to publish data on its food waste arisings

Packaging

Meanwhile the group also said they would back moves by Defra to amend the packaging recovery note (PRN) system to level the playing field for UK recyclers, but have criticised plans for an exemption for biodegradable bags under the proposed carrier bag levy.

On packaging waste, the organisation says it would support calls for an incentive for producers to use recycled plastics in their products, and a realignment of the regulations around PRNs which it says could bring a shift in favour of UK based processing.

Packaging recyclers have long called for a reform of the PRN system, claiming that the current system provides an incentive for exporters of material. Under the Packaging Regulations, packaging producers are set targets each year which they have to meet by purchasing PRNs, or their export equivalent, PERNs.

While the value of PRNs is the same as PERNs, UK reprocessors can only claim them against material which is actually recycled, as opposed to all the material in export bales, including contamination.

Resource minister Dan Rogerson has committed to carrying out a review of the PRN system, and told an audience in December that PRN reform is among his key aims in office (see letsrecycle.com story).

‘The proposed charging regime will leave retailers with complex messages to communicate to shoppers as to why some shops and some non-reusable bags are exempt from the charge.’

British Retail Consortium

In its report, the BRC said: The BRC would welcome adjustments to the packaging recovery note (PRN) system to provide an incentive for producers to use recycled plastics. In addition, a level playing field between PRNs and packaging export recovery notes (PERNs) could bring about a shift in favour of UK-based processing as opposed to the export of unprocessed plastic waste abroad.

Carrier bags

The group also commented on the proposals to bring in a mandatory 5p charge for single-use carrier bags, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the autumn, which will include an exemption for biodegradable bags (see letsrecycle.com story).

Recyclers of plastic film have been critical of the proposed exemption stating that this could undermine film recycling due to the difficulty in separating biodegradable and non-biodegradable bags, and the structural differences of the polymers.

And, the BRC has said that an exemption for biodegradable bags could make the proposals complex to communicate with customers.

The report stated: Our members will be responsible for implementing any mandatory charge for single use carrier bags in England. We believe that any charge in England should be clear, straightforward and consistent with the approaches taken in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The proposed charging regime will leave retailers with complex messages to communicate to shoppers as to why some shops and some non-reusable bags are exempt from the charge.

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