Greater clarity on which supply chains areas to prioritise for action on waste could help food and drink manufacturers as well as grocery retailers identify opportunities to make cost and environmental savings, claims a UK government funded agency.
The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which is charged with ensuring the UK meets its targets on waste reduction, is calling on the UK retail sector and its suppliers to supply data on their packaging and food waste from manufacture through distribution to back of store.
“We need the packaged food and beverage manufacturers and supermarkets to get behind this initiative, and the benefits of doing so will be that companies will be able to benchmark themselves against aggregated data,” said Charlotte Henderson.
Speaking to FoodProductionDaily.com, she said that the ultimate objective of the project is to provide guidance as to where waste can be prevented throughout the supply chain; once the data collation is complete, she said, best practice models and case studies will follow, mostly likely in the autumn.
Henderson added that the industry information, which will be kept confidential, will also be linked up with WRAP’s household food and packaging waste data to give a whole life perspective.
“There is currently limited understanding around the total amount of waste generated within the UK retail supply chain and this new research will provide invaluable insight into priorities for action at a category level,” explained Henderson.
She said in tandem with this initiative, WRAP is also funding a project that will look at mapping waste from the perspective of a product level to asses factors such as how many bananas are wasted on a annual basis.
The product map project is set to evaluate the fruit and vegetable sector initially, moving on to meat products afterwards, said Henderson.
These initiatives follow a call to action last month from the agency to the global industry to send examples of sustainable packaging technology from primary, secondary and tertiary packaging to innovative machinery, distribution and IT systems to cut waste.
According to WRAP, the ultimate objective of the exercise is to develop a resource that companies throughout the supply chain can tap into to enable further innovation and encourage faster uptake of emerging sustainable options within the UK.
The agency said that the type of technologies it was hoping to create more awareness about would include those that can extend the shelf life of food products, enable more reusable packaging or tools to cut waste on packing and filling lines.
Peter Davis, director-general of the British Plastics Federation, said that much can be learnt from overseas: “This project should ensure that we are aware of innovative international plastics packaging developments which reduce wastage and weight, increase convenience and marketing advantage, in addition to recycling."
WRAP said that food and drink manufactures interested in getting involved in its new waste data collation project should email rscdata ‘at’ wrap.org.uk