Why take action: the environmental case

Preventing 1 tonne of food waste from going to landfill saves 5 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent)

Environmental impacts of food

The food and drink sector accounts for 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions.  Fifteen million tonnes of food waste is produced each year across the supply chain and people’s homes. When food waste is landfilled, it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

Wasted food and packaging has a number of direct and indirect impacts on the environment including loss of resources, carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, creation of pollution and consumption of water. Impacts arise from:

  • loss of the material in the waste itself (that is, wasted packaging or product);
  • waste of resources embodied within the product such as energy, water, fertilisers and transport fuel;
  • the waste of resources involved in storing products and displaying them, for example energy used to refrigerate goods; and
  • traditional waste disposal routes such as landfill and energy to waste facilities.
If global food loss and waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2e after the USA and China (FAO 2013)

Climate change and supply chain resilience

The traditional supply of materials and ingredients is under threat as a result of finite resources, price volatility, a changing climate, increasing global population and the increasing prevalence of western diets. To remain competitive, businesses need to assess the risks associated with their supply chains and make changes where necessary to ensure they are resilient to these factors and that their business has a sustainable future.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a major challenge around the world, however, preventing 1 tonne of food waste from going to landfill avoids around 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) being emitted to the atmosphere.

1.7 million tonnes of waste was reduced through the influence of Phase 2 of the Courtauld Commitment, equating to a reduction of 4.8 million tonnes of CO2e.

Environmental commitments

Major retailers and food manufacturers are addressing their corporate social responsibilities by taking waste prevention and environmental sustainability seriously and are expecting their suppliers to do the same.

Many are putting environmental commitments at the core of their activities. For example, Marks & Spencer led the way in making public commitments under its ‘Plan A’.

Food manufacturers have also prioritised resource efficiency. For example, the Food and Drink Federation’s Five-Fold Environmental Ambition includes targets on waste, packaging and water reduction. Major manufacturers including Unilever, PepsiCo and Warburtons have all made commitments through sustainability plans to reduce their environmental impacts.

Packaging optimisation has been a key part of Boots' strategy to improve the sustainability of all our products. We consider the entire product journey, from design through raw material sourcing, production and retailing to consumer use and end of life. Our aim is to continue to develop products that have the best environmental and ethical profile”.
Andrew Jenkins, Sustainable Development Manager – Products, Boots UK Ltd.

What your company can do

Firstly, see if your company is taking WRAP’s recommended ‘5 Key Actions’ on waste then use the further resources provided to help you tackle the specific causes of waste.

Don’t forget to reap the full business benefits of reducing waste by letting your customers know what you are doing and how you are helping consumers reduce waste in their homes.

Why take action? See also: