UK food companies agree to slash waste and decarbonise packaging

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Supermarket

Leading food manufacturers and retailers in the UK have committed to reducing the carbon impact of grocery packaging by 10 per cent over the next two years.

In the second phase of the voluntary Courtauld Commitment, 28 leading food companies have agreed to move beyond solely weight-based targets to embrace goals that demand more sustainable use of resources over the entire product lifecycle.

New targets

Using 2009 data and working to a 2012 deadline, the agreement sets a target of reducing the carbon impact of grocery packaging by 10 per cent. This is to be achieved by employing a range of strategies related to weight reduction, recycling, and use of recycled content.

Other targets include a commitment to reduce household food and drink waste by 4 per cent and cut grocery product and packaging waste in the supply chain by 5 per cent.

The UK government-funded Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) has so far persuaded 28 grocery retailers and brand owners to commit to the targets. Signatories include some of the biggest names in food manufacturing and retail including Tesco, Asda, Nestle, Britvic, and Unilever.

“We’re thrilled that so many signatories – old and new - have already committed to this new agreement, and we hope that many more will soon follow their example,”​ said Liz Goodwin, WRAP CEO.

Holistic approach

Goodwin said the new agreement has a broader scope than the first Courtauld Commitment in 2005, demanding a more comprehensive action across the supply chain to reduce the environmental impact of the food and drink sector.

“It’s no longer enough to look at the impact of packaging alone – that’s why Courtauld Commitment 2 takes into account the environmental impact of product waste in the supply chain as well as at household level.”

Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, added his support to the new voluntary agreement. “Grocery manufacturers and retailers have already started to take action and halted the increase in packaging. The new Commitment sees them go further than ever in reducing food waste and packaging, and making it smarter – and I want to see members of the industry continuing to sign-up over the coming months.”

Industry reaction

British trade associations have also expressed their support for Courtauld Commitment 2. Jane Bickerstaffe, Director of the Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment INCPEN says: “This is just one step towards industry and WRAP getting a better understanding of the complexity of supply chains.We hope it will lead to real, holistic, science-based decisions in government, not decisions based on single factors such as carbon or packaging reduction.”

The announcement of the new targets follows the original Courtauld Commitment which was launched in 2005. WRAP said that agreement has succeeded in stopping growth in packaging despite increases in both sales and population in the UK. Some 500, 000 tonnes less packaging was used over the period 2005-2009

The 28 founding signatories to the new agreement are AG Barr, Apetito, Arla Foods, Asda, Boots UK Ltd, Britvic, Constellation Europe, Cooperative Retail, Dairy Crest, Danone Dairies, Danone Water, Fosters EMEA, HJ Heinz, Innocent Soft Drinks, Mars (UK), Morrisons, Muller Dairies, Musgraves, Nestle, Northern Foods, Robert Wisemans , Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever, Vimto, Waitrose, Warburtons, Weetabix.

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