This content was archived on 11 Feb 2013.

Courtauld Commitment 1

1.2 million tonnes of food and packaging waste have been prevented over the last five years through the success of Phase 1. The results announced in September 2010 show that 670,000 tonnes of food waste and 520,000 tonnes of packaging have been avoided across the UK between 2005 and 2009.

This avoided waste is the equivalent of:

  • 128,000 full standard refuse trucks, stretched bumper to bumper from Dumfries to Inverness.
  • Approx £1.8 billion worth of food and packaging waste that could be avoided.
  • Around 3.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, the same as 0.5 million around-the-world flights.

Achieving the targets:

Of the original targets set, two of the three targets have been achieved:

  • to design out packaging waste growth (zero growth achieved in 2008) and
  • reduce food waste by 155,000 tonnes (exceeded with 270,000 tonnes less food waste arising in 2009/10 than in 2007/08). 

The target to reduce the amount of packaging waste over the same period – has not been achieved.  Total packaging has consistently remained at approximately 2.9 million tonnes between 2006 and 2009.

The main reason behind this is a 6.4% increase in grocery sales volumes since the agreement began in 2005 and participating retailers taking a greater proportion of the overall market for beer and wine.  Bottles and cans for beer, wine and cider represent a third of all grocery packaging by weight.

However, on average, across the range of groceries we buy, packaging has reduced by around 4% for each product, whether that is through using more concentrated detergents, or lighweight cans, which is a significant achievement.

What does Zero Waste Scotland say:

Zero Waste Scotland believes the Courtauld Commitment has been critical in tackling packaging and food waste particularly against the backdrop of an unexpected increase in grocery sales. The results demonstrate how a collaborative approach between the retail sector, householders and local authorities can work to reduce waste and save people money.

Phase 2 looks at the entire lifecycle of products from manufacture to how they’re used in households.  It’s not enough to just focus on packaging and weight – the wider carbon impact is the crucial next step for supermarkets and suppliers to take.

Government and Industry supporting quotes

Scotland Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead:

The Courtauld Commitment has driven a revolution in the nation's shopping baskets by changing the way products are packaged. It has been a clear success and it has led to real changes in the products and packaging we see on our supermarket shelves.  But there is more to do if we are to deliver on our aims for a Zero Waste Scotland.

"We want retailers and food manufacturers to up their ambition in terms of making more packaging easy to recycle, to use more recycled content, and to reduce the impact of food waste and other waste throughout the whole supply chain.  We will only get to zero waste by everyone doing their bit, and I want to see more Scottish firms, particularly our iconic food and drinks industries, signing up to initiatives like Courtauld."

Environment Minister, Lord Henley: 

“The results of the first phase of the Courtauld Commitment show real progress on reducing food and packaging waste, and demonstrate how effectively governments and businesses can work together through responsibility deals.

“Phase 2 of the Courtauld Commitment sees us going even further to tackle food and packaging waste, and I would urge companies who are considering signing up to join us in rising to this new challenge.”

Welsh Assembly Government Environment Minister Jane Davidson:

My aim is to make waste prevention as much of a normal part of life as recycling is today. These results show that we can reach this ambition.

“Reducing the amount of food we throw away is one of the priorities in Wales’ waste strategy, Towards Zero Waste, so I am particularly encouraged by the reduction in food waste.

“I also commend the way that retailers and manufacturers are working together to deliver the Courtauld Commitment, and look forward to seeing the results of the next phase.”

Northern Ireland Environment Minister Edwin Poots:

“I welcome the results of the Courtauld Commitment Phase 1 as a positive move in the right direction in the reduction of packaging.  Phase 2 of the Commitment will continue, and extend, the contribution to waste reduction by the UK retail grocery supply chain and households and this very much complements the aims of the Rethink Waste campaign which I recently launched in Northern Ireland.’’

British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson: 

“This is a spectacular achievement. 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. 

“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. 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.”

Food & Drink Federation Director of Sustainability, Andrew Kuyk: 

“The Courtauld Commitment has been a key part of FDF’s Five-fold Environmental Ambition and we are delighted that our members have made such an important contribution to the very substantial savings in waste which grocery manufacturers and retailers have helped to deliver. 

“This shows what can be done through a partnership approach and we look forward to building on these achievements as we move to the next phase of the Courtauld process.”

Agreement background

Phase 1 helped to implement new solutions and technologies so that less food, products and packaging ends up as household waste.  It took shape at a Ministerial summit in 2005, where the then Environment Minister and the Chief Executive of WRAP met with senior representatives from the majority of the leading UK grocery retailers, as well as the British Retail Consortium.

The Commitment is a powerful vehicle for change and has already resulted in real reductions in packaging and food waste and realised significant commercial savings. Over 40 major retailers, brand owners, manufacturers and suppliers have signed the agreement since its launch in July 2005.  The retailers represent 92% of the UK’s grocery supermarkets. 

The signatories are working closely with WRAP to develop solutions across the whole supply chain, including innovative packaging formats, reducing the weight of packaging (e.g. bottles, cans and boxes), increasing the amount of recycled content in packaging, designing for recyclability, increasing the use of concentrates, refill and self-dispensing systems and collaborating on packaging design guidance.  They are also working on solutions for reducing food waste through innovative packaging, in-store guidance, and the Love Food Hate Waste consumer programme.