From supermarkets to households: driving food waste management change

Did you know that human error appears to be the leading cause of food waste? Interestingly, it is because of the terrible handling of food caused by low levels of training. This is particularly an issue for large-scale production companies and also in manufacturing.

If you read the first part of the series, you will agree it is impossible to ignore the fact that food waste is a critical problem in all sectors, including grocery retail, education, military and so on. Establishments need to become more sensitive when it comes to managing it.

In this second part, we will analyse the food wastage trends in supermarkets, retailers and households in the UK. Let us begin:

Supermarkets and retailers

In 2016, WRAP estimated that UK supermarkets wasted 235,000 tons of food that year, around 115,000 tonnes, edible. Supermarkets have captured over 85% of the market share of grocery stores in the UK.

A 2018 Feedback study ranked the top 10 supermarkets in the UK on publicly available information to produce ‘The Food Waste Scorecard.’

Its findings were stark, with the bulk performing little if any work to bring down food waste by their producers themselves or to help households to manage their one waste food.

In June 2019, the government led a drive to encourage the leading organisations within the world of food and sustainability to commit to helping to halve food waste by 2030 and raise public awareness of the issue.

With the bulk of the big supermarket chains, high street coffee shops, and manufacturers involved, this should dramatically impact the volume of waste produced within the retail section of the food chain.

Steps are being taken; supermarket chain Iceland announced in May of this year that it had cut down its food waste by nearly a quarter (23.2%) in the past two years, significantly minimizing the amount wasted by almost 2,500 tonnes.

Halfway almost to its target of halving its food waste. Whether the government’s drive has been effective across the UK food industry is harder to quantify.


WRAP reports that household food waste makes up 70% of the total UK food waste post-farm gate; a staggering 6.6 million tonnes. Over two-thirds of this waste was edible food. That is cringe-worthy and careless wastage of food.

This was backed up by research undertaken by Opinium on behalf of in February 2019, which identified 65% of households were buying too much food with an average of £6.84 of unused food being disposed of each week (£355.68 a year).

The younger age groups (18-34-year-olds) seem to be the worst offenders, with 80% admitting to throwing away food every week.

It seems the pandemic, despite the initial panic and bulk buying, has had a very positive impact on food waste in the household.

Back to WRAP, their survey from May 2020, which showed the lockdown had created better planning, food management, increased home cooking and a very positive decline in household food waste.

Whether these positive practices will continue as the lockdown eases, only time will tell. But the situation does look hopeful.

An ambitious voluntary agreement bringing together a broad range of organisations involved in the food chain, Courtauld 2025 was launched in 2016 with an aim to increase the resource efficiency of the food supply chain.

Its target is to reduce food waste by 20% by 2025 and make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable.

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It covers food waste post-farm gate and includes a commitment to ‘drive best practice through its unique whole-system approach to how food-and-drink is produced, sold and consumed in the UK.

With the amount of food waste created in the home, education and awareness are essential tools in their armoury.

In conclusion

Food waste has a value — a renewable energy value — and yet food industry practitioners across the country are paying to have their food waste taken away or sent to landfill as part of a general waste disposal contract.

An upcoming industry leader, Waste2 Environmental Systems Ltd, has developed its service around giving that value back to the business that created the food waste.

Our systems process the food waste on-site, turning it into a range of energy formats that can be used by the waste creator or sold back to the grid, allowing them to negate removal and disposal charges.

For high volume food waste producers, the positive impact on the bottom line can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Visit our website or contact us to know how our systems can help you process food waste to your advantage.

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