September 27, 2021

WRAP restates UK food waste figures to support united global action

Figures for the levels of UK food waste have been restated by WRAP, the UK’s leading sustainability body, as part of a drive for greater international consistency in measurement, reporting and action on food waste.

WRAP has restated the way UK household food waste is defined and described, to conform to the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard (FLWS). That is the international standard and measure which WRAP helped develop with partners including the World Resources Institute, The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Consumer Goods Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The UK is a global leader in measuring food waste and supporting international food waste prevention projects. The move by WRAP will allow for easier like-for-like comparisons to be made between nations, as more comparable data becomes available from different countries through the FLWS.

WRAP has restated 2015 data for household food waste, and for key historical years, using the international definitions and classifications for food waste. This means WRAP no longer classifies food waste under three categories of ‘avoidable’, ‘possibly avoidable’ or ‘unavoidable’ food waste, but simply as either wasted food (edible parts), or the associated inedible parts.

The move also coincides with the publication of the official Courtauld Commitment 2025 (C2025) baseline for the year 2015, against which progress to reduce UK food waste will be measured. The C2025 baseline covers household food waste as well as data for the supply chain: retail, manufacture and the hospitality & food service sector.

The C2025 baseline is the first time the UK has had a complete and comparable estimate for TOTAL food waste, post farm gate, for the same year.

Key points to note for the restated food waste figures, and C2025 baseline:

  • Total estimate for UK post-farm food waste (2015) remains 10.2m tonnes;
  • Total household food waste (HHFW) is now reported as 7.1m tonnes rather than 7.3m tonnes. This is entirely due to food purchased for human consumption, but ultimately fed to animals (200,000 tonnes), no longer being classified as ‘food waste’;
  • The amount of household food that could have been eaten (edible parts) is 70 per cent of the total HHFW, or 5.0m tonnes, worth an estimated £15bn. This is higher than the 4.4mt reported previously for ‘avoidable’ food waste due to the change in classification (i.e. bringing in most of what was previously classed as ‘possibly avoidable’);
  • Estimates for supply chain food waste include more recent data from C2025 signatories as well as data from the Environment Agency and the Interdepartmental Business Register (IDBR). This means new national figures for the entire supply chain;
  • In total, around 3.1m tonnes of food waste occurred in the entire supply chain in 2015. This breaks down as:
  • Retail: 260,000 tonnes for UK retailers compared to the previous estimate for 2015 of 240,000 tonnes (updated to reflect higher quality data from C2025 signatories). The new estimate reflects a more robust set of data, but cannot be used to infer any change compared to the previous estimate published (which was also for 2015);
  • Manufacture: 1.85m tonnes for UK manufacturers compared to the previous estimate of 1.7m tonnes (2014);
  • Hospitality & food service sector – one million tonnes for the UK rather than the 2011 estimate of 920,000 tonnes;
  • The estimates for manufacture and the hospitality & food sector are constructed using more recent datasets compared to the ones previously published, and do not result from any change in classification. The differences in tonnages reported are not statistically significant compared to the 2.9m tonnes previously reported.

Peter Maddox, Director at WRAP, explains: “We have some big activities planned for this year aimed at driving down food waste in the supply chain and in the home, and this is a good time to bring our numbers into line with the international standards. WRAP was instrumental in developing the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard, and it’s imperative that all nations report using this approach so progress can be measured uniformly. Restating our own figures will encourage other countries to report using the standard, and consistency is crucial in the fight against food waste.

“I’m very pleased too that we can publish a more detailed assessment of food waste across the entire UK supply chain in the baseline for Courtauld 2025. This shows the full extent of food waste across the supply chain, and makes the scale of the problem very clear. Cutting food waste isn’t something any of us can do in isolation, and we all have a lot of work to do. But delivering Courtauld 2025 will mean 1.5 million tonnes less food ends up as waste every year, by 2025.”

Reductions in UK household food waste amounted to around one million tonnes a year in 2015, compared to food waste levels in 2007. WRAP has previously reported reductions in supply chain food waste of around 250,000 tonnes a year from signatories to its voluntary agreements (Courtauld Commitment 2 and 3, and the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement*), but C2025 faces an even greater challenge. C2025 targets apply to the whole supply chain, meaning that reductions must be achieved by both signatories and non-signatories.

WRAP will report on progress towards Courtauld 2025 targets in 2019, 2022 and 2026.