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U.K. Grocery Sector Makes Progress Hitting Waste Targets

 U.K. supermarkets and grocery brands have avoided 1.2 million tonnes of food and packaging waste during the first five years of the Courtauld Commitment.

Developed by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement among retailers, brands and manufacturers to reduce packaging and food waste.

The first phase of the agreement, which was signed by 42 companies including all major U.K. supermarkets, ran from 2005 to 2009. In that time, the signatories met goals to stop packaging waste growth and reduce food waste, but failed to reduce the total amount of packaging waste being created.

In those five years, companies avoided 670,000 tonnes of food waste and 520,000 tonnes of packaging. In 2008, the goal to achieve zero growth in packaging waste was met, and in 2010 the goal to reduce food waste by 155,000 tonnes per year was exceeded with 270,000 fewer tonnes of food going into the trash in the final year of the first phase.

“This is a spectacular achievement," British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said in a statement. "Preventing waste is the holy grail of the drive for a zero-waste economy. Recycling is good. It produces environmental benefits, but dramatically more resources are saved by not producing that material in the first place."

Because the total amount of packaging being used stayed steady at 2.9 million tonnes per year from 2006 to 2009, the goal to achieve absolute reductions in packaging waste remains unmet. WRAP attributed that failure to the 6.4 percent increase in grocery sales that happened since 2005, particularly the fact that retailers that signed up for the Commitment ended up taking a greater portion of the beer and wine market, which accounts for one-third of all grocery packaging by weight.

On average, though, packaging for grocery products has been reduced 4 percent by lightweighting, concentrating products to make packages smaller, and other strategies.

The next phase of the Commitment, announced earlier this year, introduced three new goals. For the next phase, 39 companies have signed up, pledging to help reduce the carbon impact of grocery packaging by 10 percent, reduce household food and drink waste 4 percent, and reduce supply chain product and packaging waste by 5 percent, all by 2012.

To reduce the overall carbon impact of packaging, companies plan to make packaging lighter, help increase recycling rates and add more recycled content to packaging.

Trash - CC license by Flickr user dogbomb

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