According to WRAP's latest report on the second phase of the Courtauld Commitment, the grocery retail and manufacturing sector is making significant progress towards cutting food and packaging waste - despite supply chain challenges and the loss of end-market materials.
As part of the voluntary agreement, started in 2005, signed by 53 leading UK grocery retailers, tough waste reduction targets have been put in place within the grocery retail supply chain to be met by 2012. However, concerns have been raised over the lack of end-markets in the UK for materials that have been recovered from this process.
Closed Loop Recycling's managing director Chris Dow, said that reprocessors face a "ludicrous situation" whereby exporters of these resources are paid a subsidy to send the material off-shore and warned it was damaging the potential to produce sustainable packaging materials in the UK.
Meanwhile the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) head of environment Bob Gordon said that some supply chain issues still needed to be addressed. From the consumer perspective, Gordon said that the current financial climate has had an impact on food waste, which poses an interesting question in terms of how attitudes to waste will continue to change and whether it will lead to environmental and policy change.
However, some smaller retailers have argued that many businesses have been reducing packaging waste for years - mainly as a result of financial pressures.
Key findings from the WRAP report shows that in the first year of the phase 2 Courtauld Commitment, signatories are halfway to achieving a three-year packaging reduction target of 10%, with a 5.1% packaging reduction recorded. Household food and drink waste was found to have been reduced by 3% - on course for an overall three year reduction of 4%.
Supply chain product and packaging waste fell by just 0.4% in 2010 which WRAP plans to focus on this area in order to meet commitment target of 5% for 2012.
However grocery supply chain waste was found to have performed well in diverting waste from landfill, with a 40% reduction reported over the period, with much of the waste sent to renewable energy production using anaerobic digestion.