Commitment by food industry halts packaging growth

Posted by Isobel Drake on 29th July 2008

The grocery sector has ended packaging growth in the UK despite a sharp increase in sales, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) said overnight.

WRAP has been working in consultation with the UK’s top retailers and brands to achieve this target and believe the sector is now on track to cut food and packaging waste.

This success is the result of the ‘Courtauld Commitment’, according to WRAP. This is a voluntary agreement between WRAP, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the Scottish and Welsh governments and the UK grocery sector to achieve significant reductions in household packaging and food waste. It was achieved by the grocery sector despite unanticipated challenges including 1.8% growth in the grocery sector and population growth of 0.5% per annum. It is the first step towards meeting the Courtauld Commitment’s ultimate target of decreasing the amount of packaging waste by 2010.

Representatives of 32 prominent retailers and brands took part in a summit overnight which discussed possible future action on food and packaging waste, building on the success of the existing agreement.

The challenges important to the delivery of the Commitment appear to be:

* Increasing the number of grocery brands and manufacturers signed up
* Demonstrating visible change to consumers
* Delivering change throughout the supply chain

There was discussion of possible ways forward on packaging and food waste after 2010, against the background of the recent report by the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit: Food Matters. Amongst the issues considered for any successor agreement to the Courtauld Commitment were:

* How the carbon impacts of packaging might be measured
* Considering extending the objectives to cover food waste and packaging at back of store and in the grocery supply chain
* How to encourage increasing the amount of recycled content in packaging and making the packaging itself easier to recycle

In addition, by April 2010, WRAP asked the retailers and brands to further support its Love Food Hate Waste Campaign to help achieve its objective of a 155,000 tonne reduction in household food waste. WRAP suggested possible actions could include developing a wider range of portion sizes, providing more extensive storage advice and clarity on date labelling. However, WRAP was clear that this will form just one part of the solution in helping consumers reduce food waste.

“WRAP is delighted that the grocery sector has responded positively to the challenge of tackling packaging and food waste. Their achievement in ending packaging growth is an impressive one, particularly against the backdrop of unexpectedly high grocery sales and population growth,” WRAP CEO Liz Goodwin said.

Melanie Leech, Food and Drink Federation Director General, added that it was exciting to see their members get behind the scheme and achieve the goals which were set out. “It’s great news that the industry has met the Courtauld target to halt packaging growth, and that we are now on track to cut food and packaging waste by 2010,” she proclaimed. “As part of FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition we have been encouraging our members to make a significant contribution to WRAP’s work on reducing the level of packaging reaching households, as well as seeking to send zero of our own food and packaging waste to landfill from 2015.”