All over the western world, food waste is a major concern. When so many are starving, sending thousands of tons of unwanted food to the landfills shouldn’t be an option. In the UK, British retailers have pledged to reduce the amount of food waste and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have announced in their annual report that retailers have not yet met Phase 2 of the voluntary Courtauld Commitment, which aimed to see a reduction of product and packaging waste in the grocery supply chain by 5%. Instead, since 2010, they have only managed to reduce it by 0.4%.

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It is estimated that the UK’s retail sector is responsible for around 3.5% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Three quarters of these emissions are because of corporate buildings, refrigeration and transport – all of which could be reduced if thousands of tons of fruit, vegetables, milk and yogurt were not thrown away every year.

On top of that, figures from the government’s waste adviser, Wrap, revealed that food packaging causes 6.6 million tons of waste per year at a staggering cost of £5 billion. In a statement, Wra said: “There has been a pronounced diversion of waste away from landfill and other disposal methods towards recovery and recycling routes. While this is extremely encouraging, it does not directly contribute to the Courtauld target which aims to drive waste prevention behavior.”

Bob Gordon, head of environment at the BRC, said that the failure to meet the targets had also been influenced by the additional impact of a year-on-year increase in sales of 1.4%. Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “This is a relatively new target and while it is disappointing that we have not met it, it needs more time because it is not a straightforward issue. We could reduce packaging, for example, but that could increase food waste.”

However, there is a silver lining – according to the report, the retail sector exceeded key targets to reduce waste and to cut transport emissions. One target was to cut waste sent to landfills to below 15% by 2013, but it has been beaten two years early with just 14% of waste sent last year. On transport, retailers also committed to reducing delivery emissions by 15% by 2013, and by 2011 these emissions were down by 20%.

Gordon added: “Despite current economic difficulties, retailers are continuing to work with their suppliers to meet tougher sustainability goals. This BRC assessment shows that the UK has the most progressive retail sector in the world and, crucially, that work with consumers and environmental groups is driving standards up. Some previous targets have been net ahead of schedule but investment continues, protecting consumers’ wallets and the planets.”

+ British Retail Consortium

Via The Guardian

Images: sporkist/stevendepolo