Recycling by retailers plays an important role in the closed loop economy. For UK retailers a range of legal duties are imposed and are often wider than might be expected. But, overall, work on sustainability issues continues on a voluntary basis, largely under the Courtauld Commitment.


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For UK retailers a range of legal duties are imposed and are often wider than might be expected.

The most important of these, arguably, is the Packaging Waste Obligations which require retailers to pay towards ensuring certain volumes of packaging are recycled each year. For more information on this, see our Packaging section here.

The producer responsibility applied to packaging also applies to waste electrical equipment and batteries but really stops there.

As yet there is no producer responsibility for products such as furniture, mattresses and carpets, nor is their any requirement to recycled food waste. That said, supermarkets in particular have come under pressure to ensure that their food waste is reduced and if it can’t be donated for charitable purposes that at least it is recycled. In Scotland rules about recovering food waste are already in place.


Work on the retail sector’s waste management and recycling involvement continues to develop with work being done under the Courtauld Commitment for 2025.

This Commitment is organised by WRAP, previously a ‘quango’ as the Waste & Resources Action Programme, but now a Charity which receives support from government.

Recently (September 2016) WRAP said that the Commitment ‘touches’ 95% of the UK food retail sector by market share.

It noted that the voluntary agreement The Courtauld Commitment 2025, to grow as 30 new signatories join the 10 year commitment to reduce the resource intensity of the UK’s food and drink. The Courtauld Commitment 2025 is a voluntary agreement that brings together organisations across the food system – from producer to consumer – “to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable. At its heart is a ten-year commitment to identify priorities, develop solutions and implement changes at scale – both within signatory organisations and by spreading new best practice across the UK”.

David Moon, head of sustainable food at WRAP said, “Building connections right across the supply chain makes Courtauld 2025 a powerful voluntary agreement and we are delighted with the desire for action shown from such a range of signatories. Already we’ve set up a number of industry-led working groups that are meeting to address important issues. These range from water and waste to sustainable design and buying; to areas as diverse as fresh produce, meat protein, dairy, redistribution and hospitality and food service.

“Later this year we will introduce a reinvigorated Love Food Hate Waste campaign, working in partnership with these big names with the aim of delivering the step change that’s required to push forward the work on household food waste.”

New Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories (September 2016) include:

–  Retailers: Boots UK and Iceland Foods Ltd

–  Brands and manufacturers: Burton’s Biscuit Company, Dairy Crest Ltd, Produce World Group Ltd, Puffin Produce Ltd and Quorn (Marlow Foods).

–  Hospitality and food service: Compass, Nando’s Chickenland Ltd, and SUBWAY Realty Ltd.

–  Local authorities: City of Cardiff Council, Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA), Hampshire County Council, Project Integra – Hampshire’s Waste Partnership, Monmouthshire County Council, and the district councils of South Oxfordshire, West Oxfordshire and the Vale of the White Horse .

–  Redistribution organisations and charities: FareShare, His Church, Neighbourly, The Real Junk Food Project and Transition Bro Gwaun.

Trade and sector organisations, Government and academia: British Institute for Facilities Management (BIFM), Catering Equipment Suppliers Association, HCC – Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion, Wales), Institute of Food Science and Technology, National Association for Care Catering (NACC) and The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, and the Soil Association.