Mapping Waste in the Food Industry

This project was commissioned to collect data on food and packaging waste arisings from FDF members' manufacturing sites in 2012.

This was primarily in order to track progress towards FDF's Five-fold Environmental Ambition target to send zero food and packaging waste to landfill by 2015 at the latest and to gain insight into food and packaging waste arisings at its members' manufacturing sites across the UK. It builds on two previous surveys commissioned by FDF and Defra, and undertaken in 2008 and in 2010, which assessed the amount of food and packaging waste arising from such sites during 2006, 2008 and 2009. In the 2010 report, the three survey years were also compared to evaluate progress in waste management practices in the industry. Both the 2012 survey and the previous surveys were undertaken by Oakdene Hollins.

Executive Summary

This report is based on the responses to a survey distributed by FDF in August 2013. As with previous survey reports it aims to provide an updated snapshot of the amount and geographical distribution of food and packaging waste arising at FDF member sites and how this waste is being managed. Responses were received from 135 sites, which collectively generated 196,477 tonnes of food and packaging waste in 2012. However, details on how these wastes are managed were provided by only 84, which accounted for 138,836 tonnes of the total. Also, data were compared within a smaller sub-sample of 55 sites which provided data for all four survey years and were analysed, to identify trends.

Of the 138,836 tonnes of waste produced at sites who responded with waste management information, only 4,214 tonnes (3%) was sent to landfill, with the remaining 97% being recovered in some way. This shows that FDF members are making good progress towards meeting the FDF zero food and packaging waste to landfill target. Mixed waste represented the majority of waste sent to landfill in 2012.

Landspreading was the major management method in use in 2012, followed by recycling and thermal treatment with energy recovery. The latter represented the dominant route for mixed waste; this suggests that, although waste being landfilled has decreased since previous years, much of this is being diverted to thermal treatment with energy recovery rather than it undergoing better segregation to enable recycling, AD or composting. Recycling was also a significant management route especially for packaging with some 96% of such waste being managed this way. Finally, the amount of waste being sent to AD showed substantial uplift compared to previous surveys with 8% of total waste being managed in this way.

The previous reports suggested that targeting waste segregation at source should be prioritised, to reduce the tonnage of mixed waste going to landfill. The latest survey data show that, although the amount of mixed waste generated has decreased slightly since 2008, much of this waste is being diverted from landfill to thermal treatment with energy recovery. This implies that this waste is not being segregated and therefore there is still opportunity for increased segregation in order to enable more recycling of this waste.

Analysis of the sub-sample of 55 sites providing data for all four years showed a strong decrease in the use of landfill, with an 80% reduction between 2006 and 2012. Another positive trend concerned recycling, which showed a 36% increase since 2008.

Further analysis was undertaken to examine how waste has changed in relation to levels of production. The results show that between 2008 and 2012 the ratio of waste to production may have decreased slightly.

The table below summarises further opportunities for waste prevention and further improvements in waste management available to FDF members.

Waste prevention opportunities Waste management improvements
  • Setting internal key performance indicators to encourage more waste prevention at sites
  • Deeper applications of lean manufacturing principles
  • Better waste segregation to eliminate landfill
  • Increase the proportion of food waste going to AD

More Information

Food Waste Prevention Signpost

WRAP has developed a signposting tool help food businesses access information on food waste and how to prevent it in their supply chains and help consumers reduce food waste. It provides links to insights and guidance from a wide range of organisations to help companies take action to reduce their environmental impact and cut costs.

Last reviewed: 19 Jan 2016