Supply chain waste slashed as U.K. supermarkets smash expectations

Supermarkets have redoubled efforts to cut waste in their supply chains, after figures last year showed the industry could fail to meet a target to collectively reduce waste by 5 percent over a three-year period.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) today published an update on the second phase of the so-called Courtauld Commitment -- a series of voluntary waste reduction pledges made by the retail industry.

The 53 signatories to the commitment include a host of household names, including Asda and Boots, as well as suppliers, such as Arla Foods, Britvic and Coca-Cola.

The pledge included a commitment to reduce supply chain product and packaging waste by 5 percent between 2009 and 2012. But figures for 2009-2010, released last year, suggested the industry was way off track to meeting that goal, having only reduced waste by 0.4 percent.

That figure was later upgraded to 1.2 percent after signatories supplied new information, but commentators remained concerned that the industry was failing to take sufficient steps to meet the target.

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Next page: Despite progress, supermarkets can't become complacent

Figures released today, however, reveal supermarkets and their suppliers have cut product and packaging waste by 8.8 percent from 2009-2011, far exceeding the original 5 percent target for 2012.

Dr. Richard Swannell, WRAP's director of design and waste prevention, said the results reflected the efforts that signatories have put in to be more resource efficient.

However, Swanell added that the industry could not become complacent about reaching future targets and that further efforts were needed to ensure the industry meets a 2012 goal to cut all packaging waste by 10 percent between 2009 and 2012.

The new figures show that supermarkets have reduced packaging waste by 8.2 percent from 2009-11.

"The reduction in supply chain waste is particularly important given it's a new area for Courtauld," Swannell said. "In this, its final year, we are continuing to work with the sector to help ensure the Courtauld Phase 2 targets are met in full."

Andrew Kuyk, director of sustainability for the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said the figures were evidence that voluntary commitments can be an effective way of driving up sustainability standards.

"It is an excellent example of the results that can be achieved through voluntary agreements, where government and industry work together to deliver a common set of aims," he said.

"FDF members have consistently championed WRAP's work on preventing waste and were at the forefront of the programme of site reviews. We look forward to continuing to work closely with WRAP in the months ahead, both to complete delivery of the remaining Courtauld 2 targets and to help frame what happens when the current agreement expires at the end of this year."