92,000 tonnes of surplus food redistributed in 2020

92,000 tonnes of surplus food, the equivalent of 220 million meals, were redistributed across England in 2020, according to a report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Surplus food redistribution in the UK 2015-2020 shows that surplus food redistribution tripled between those years, with government grants helping charities to redistribute the most surplus food ever last year.

Food bankSince 2015, two-thirds (66 per cent) of the redistributed food has been supplied by retail and manufacturing, while 23 per cent has been from hospitality and food service, as well as farms.

WRAP found that the majority of the increase in 2020 was driven by the expanding capacity of redistribution charities and organisations – which has been supported by the work of the Courtauld 2025 Redistribution Working Group.

The signatories of the Courtauld 2025 Commitment, which include ASDA, the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM), the Sustainable Restaurant Association and West London Waste, have committed to reducing food waste, cutting carbon and protecting vital water resources.

Government funding has been a crucial element of the sharp increase in food redistribution, with WRAP having awarded almost £7 million to redistribution organisations in England up to 2020.

Funding was awarded under two schemes: £3.8 million through the COVID-19 Emergency Surplus Food Grant to not-for-profit organisations in England, and £3 million under the Resource Action Fund Food Waste Prevention Grants to small and large-scale projects.

Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP, said: “Our report shows strong growth, but more needs to be done to meet Courtauld 2025 and UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 targets.

“We know there is the potential to more than double the amount of food redistributed so while I welcome these figures, I would ask all of those involved to redouble their efforts and make full use of WRAP’s resources and support.

“While redistribution is an important tool, it is not the answer to food waste. Priority must be given to reducing surplus and waste in the first place.

“This is critical for business efficiency and essential if we are to achieve our environmental objectives.”

WRAP research shows that redistribution could be more than doubled from within the supply chain, if redistribution organisations were authorised by retailers to redistribute own-label surplus and restrictions on the types of food to be redistributed were loosened.

In light of this, a guide on best practice when redistributing own-label products has been compiled by the Courtauld 2025 Redistribution Working Group.

Guidance on redistributing own-label products within the supply chain advises retailers on how to take a more consistent approach to the redistribution of surplus retail own-label food while maintaining food safety and brand integrity.

Susan Thomas, Senior Director, Sustainable Commercial Activities at ASDA, commented: “At Asda we are committed to redistributing as much food surplus as possible and are proud to have doubled the volume of food donated directly from our stores and depots during the past year.

“To ensure that as little food is wasted as possible, we also want to help make redistribution simple further up the supply chain.

“The WRAP redistribution best practice guide identifies a consistent approach which will help make redistribution quick and easy for our suppliers.”