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Agreement has prevented 1.2 million tonnes of waste

A reduction of 1.2 million tonnes of food and packaging waste over the last five years is a spectacular achievement by the UK's grocery retailing sector and its customers.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Agreement has prevented 1.2 million tonnes of waste

Reacting to independent figures published yesterday, the British Retail Consortium said preventing waste is the holy grail of the drive towards zero-waste.

The ‘waste hierarchy' adopted by all the UK governments puts waste prevention above recovery, meaning they all accept it produces greater environmental gains.

The results of a voluntary agreement between the UK grocery sector and the Government's waste reduction delivery body Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) show 670,000 tonnes of food waste and 550,000 tonnes of packaging have been avoided since the agreement began in 2005.

Stephen Robertson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium, said: "These are spectacular reductions against very ambitious targets, all achieved without legislation. And this is not a one off. It builds on big reductions in waste to landfill, transport emissions and carrier bags.

"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.

"Between 2006 and 2009, the volume of groceries sold by participating retailers rose by 6.4 per cent yet they're using no more packaging. That shows the success of moves to do the job of protecting and preserving products with less material.

"The huge fall in food waste is the best news and a tribute to retailers' work with customers, supported by WRAP and local authority initiatives. Storage advice, recipes and more choice of portion sizes have all helped people manage their buying, keeping and use of food better. With food production generating significant emissions – much more than packaging – cutting the amount of food wasted means big environmental and financial gains for us all."

Under this first phase of the Courtauld agreement, retailers, brands and manufacturers pledged to design out packaging waste growth by 2008 (achieved). They said they would help reduce food waste from households by 155,000 tonnes by 2010 (exceeded 270,000 tonnes, March 2010). They also agreed to deliver absolute reductions in packaging by 2010 (consistent levelling out at 2.9 million tonnes each year between 2006 and 2009 despite 6.4 per cent growth in sales volumes over that period).

The next phase of the agreement will concentrate on the carbon impact of packaging.

The third phase will be a ground-breaking initiative that looks at measuring and reducing the entire carbon impact of products throughout their lifecycle, including manufacture, packaging, transportation and use in the home. .

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