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IGD and WRAP recently published their new package of resources for food companies to improve food waste measurement. Alan Hayes explains more about the collaboration.

Progress on measuring food waste

Food waste measurement isn’t standardised, with different sectors and companies using different approaches. This makes benchmarking very difficult. Only a handful of companies report on their food waste, the majority who report on waste do so through aggregated data.

Last year, IGD brought companies from across the entire food chain together to discuss this issue, in collaboration with WRAP (the food waste experts). The aim was to agree a set of principles and common definitions which the whole of industry could adopt. This would help put food waste measurement on a more consistent footing.

Those taking part shared their intent to use consistent definitions of food waste. However, complex processes and operations can result in different interpretations of these definitions.

Barriers to success

Only some businesses have granular waste data:

  • Growers have weight data by crop and location
  • Food manufacturers have mainly financial data, with the more sophisticated having accurate weight data as part of operational performance
  • Retailers face the challenges of separating packaging from food, and food from other waste streams such as coffee and flowers

The Food Loss & Waste Standard (FLWS, an internationally agreed method of accounting for food waste) allows waste destined for animal feed to be counted as waste by some organisations and not by others. Similarly, FLWS does not mandate a food waste hierarchy or compliance with any waste hierarchy.

Complex manufacturing operations and complex supply chains, combined with a lack of accurate waste composition data, result in the use of diverse methods – from measurement at individual item level to the use of nominal weights. These are significant barriers when seeking to benchmark internal vs external performance.

Outcomes of discussions

The first outcome of the 2017 discussions was an agreed set of principles for food waste measurement, a significant achievement for the UK food industry. These principles have been adopted by all members of the IGD Policy Issues Council, a forum of industry leaders that debates the challenges facing the food and grocery industry.

IGD and WRAP also ensured that this work was aligned with international initiatives, namely Champions 12.3 (set up to help deliver Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 about halving food loss and waste) and the FLWS.

The second outcome is the collaborative development of a set of signposted principles and resources that IGD and WRAP have now published. This gives businesses of all sizes some tools to ensure their measurement of food waste improves. Through better measurement, we can all create better targets and more focused action plans.

Source: Food Waste Measurement Principles And Resources Guide, WRAP/IGD, Jan 2018

Looking to the future

In 2018, we plan to develop roadmaps to implement these principles in each of the major food supply chain sectors: retail, manufacturing, primary production, hospitality & foodservice.

The roadmaps will identify how to overcome barriers and implement a common approach that’s based on principles and definitions. This will enable more consistency and benchmarking within each sector and across the industry.

My colleague at WRAP, Peter Maddox, recently wrote a blog to introduce the resources. We would love you to share either of these blogs more widely with your networks, to spread the food waste reduction message. Please tag us on LinkedIn or Twitter if you do share, and keep a look out for more updates on this vitally important topic.

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Alan Hayes takes a look at the recent activity on plastic waste and puts it in a wider context.

Growing calls for action

Industry is under increasing pressure from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Greenpeace, Hubbub and WWF to reduce plastic use in food packaging. Mainstream media are also driving this pressure. The pressure centres on the extent of plastic contamination in every aspect of our environment, from the oceans and sea animals (as highlighted in Blue Planet by David Attenborough) to rivers and streams and even our drinking water.

Food industry under the spotlight

Plastic packaging and food are inextricably linked in the eyes of consumers. Deposit return schemes for plastic bottles are being considered by UK Government, and are being trialled in Scotland. 

Perceptions of excessive and unnecessary packaging are widespread, and there is an increased focus on the recyclability of plastic – from coffee cups to black trays in fruit & veg to tea bag seals. Carrier bags are also part of this issue.

Activity in the UK

WRAP has recently announced that it is working in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to launch a new initiative to transform the UK plastics system and tackle plastic pollution. This was revealed as part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan in January 2018, and a full launch is due later in Spring. 

The initial focus will be on plastic packaging and will aim to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging
  • Make sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Significantly increase the collection and recycling of plastic packaging
  • Increase recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material
  • Impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter

We await more details of how this ambitious initiative will work, and who the launch partners will be. 

Alan Hayes

Alan Hayes

Sustainability & Strategy Manager


This report highlights four key supply chain trends that will emerge and develop in 2018. It also assesses how the trends IGD identified at the beginning of last year are impacting the supply chain today.
This is the third and final report in IGD’s Re-linking the Supply Chain series, focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT) in the supply chain. This report presents a roadmap for IoT development, detailing twelve steps to success that will help you move from idea to implementation.
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