New UK targets include 55% carbon cut and zero waste

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/Petmal
© iStock/Petmal

Related tags: Greenhouse gas

UK food manufacturers have committed to cut carbon emissions by 55% by 2025 and to send zero waste to landfill by the end of this year.

The new targets were unveiled as part of a range of new commitments in the Food & Drink Federation’s ‘Ambition 2025’ plan.

The document succeeds the organisation’s ‘Five-fold Environmental Ambition, which was launched back in 2007. Since then, FDF’s members have slashed carbon emissions by 44%, cut transport emissions by almost 7% and reduced supply chain waste by over 3%. The carbon impact of packaging has also fallen by around 4%.

The new scheme sets a series of new benchmarks for the sector to meet, including stretching new targets on carbon and waste.

The 55% by 2025 goal on carbon reductions is ahead of the carbon budgets set out to deliver the 80% cuts required by 2050 under national law (the UK’s Climate Change Act).

However, the target can be revised up or down depending on progress and “economic circumstances”​, FDF said, with a first review scheduled for 2020.

The caveat is unsurprising given how the Brexit vote and the falling pound have hit the sector’s confidence in the past six months. More than one in five firms surveyed by the FDF​ earlier this month said capital investment had decreased since June 23, whilst just 11% expect to spend more in the coming 12 months.

Deeper cuts 

To date, manufacturers have cut carbon through a number of initiatives, including investment in energy efficient equipment and fuel switching.

However, FDF noted the scale of “wider food chain emissions”,​ with ‘production to consumption’ accounting for 20% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We fully support and will contribute to the [Courtauld 2025] target of achieving a 20% per person reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and consumption of food and drink in the UK,”​ the Ambition 2025 document​ reads.

Achieving this will see firms looking much further than energy use. The Courtauld 2025 website – which is a voluntary agreement across food manufacturing, foodservice and food retail – suggests actions could involve behaviour change initiatives to promote “sustainable food choices”.​ Reduced consumption of meat and dairy, both if which have considerable carbon footprints, could be on the cards.

Waste not, want not

However, Courtauld’s initial focus will be on waste, with a target to cut food and drink waste by 20% between 2015 and 2025.

junkfood, food waste, Copyright conejota
©iStock/conejota

The FDF’s new targets are in line with this ambition. The Federation also wants members to send zero food waste to landfill from members’ own direct operations from the end of this year.

Earlier this year new data was published​ showing that UK food manufacturers generate 1.7m tonnes of food waste a year. This is actually 2.2m tonnes less than previously estimates suggested.

The sector is generally “highly efficient”​, noted waste experts WRAP. However, they identified a further 355,000 tonnes of reductions that could be achieved in the next 10 years. Around 44% is preventable, 20% could be redistributed and 36% could be turned into animal feed.

Going forward, FDF said the focus would be on reducing avoidable (as opposed to unavoidable) food waste which will have greater benefits in relation to food security.

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