Food & Drink Manufacturing

The food industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, with a turnover of £76.7bn (16% of all UK manufacturing) and employing 395,000 people.22 There are around 100,000 food and drink manufacturing sites in the UK23 producing in the region of 3.2m tonnes of food waste.24

Factors identified by the IGD, which increase food waste include: under or overweight products; trimmings; technical errors; contamination of machinery; inconsistency within processes used and market-imposed waste, from take-back systems and last minute cancellations.25

For larger manufacturers, who are typically producing food waste in bulk, the business case for diverting food waste is clear, as landfill represents the most expensive disposal option.

  • Barriers in manufacturing
    1. Separate waste collection

      For large numbers of small manufacturers, there are issues surrounding separate collection, both perceived and real. The cost and frequency of collection, odours and vermin can all be seen as potential barriers.

    2. The use of macerators

      Some food manufacturers use industrial macerator systems, as they are considered by some to be a low-cost solution. However, the water industry is increasingly lobbying for a ban on macerators because of their impact on sewer systems.26

    3. Packaging contamination

      Contamination by packaging is also a barrier to moving food waste up the hierarchy. WRAP’s organics report identified that only 27% of AD facilities in the UK had de-packaging systems.27

    4. Operational change

      Real or perceived difficulties relating to measuring the return on investment and concerns in altering staff behaviour, can often dissuade organisations from taking those important first steps.

  • Is anything changing?

    In 2007, the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), which represents food and drink manufacturers, committed to sending zero food and packaging waste to landfill by 2015.

    WRAP's last update on the Courtauld Commitment in 2012 showed that of the 2.3m tonnes of waste generated by those signed up in the supply chain, including manufacturers, 80% was recovered or recycled, 10% was sent for disposal to landfill and 10% was discharged to sewer.

    To help put surplus food to better use a new food redistribution working group, chaired by WRAP was launched in January 2013. The FDF reports that 17 of its members are now working closely with organisations such as FareShare to redistribute food to people in need.28

    The IGD has identified five key business principles that can be applied to drive down waste: measurement, engagement, forecasting, packaging design and efficient product range. It has produced a collaborative toolkit which demonstrates how producers and retailers can work closely to identify waste hotspots, establish why they are happening and develop solutions to resolve the issue. To help businesses to apply best practice, it has developed more than 50 case studies which show the toolkit in action.

    The Pig Idea29, launched by Tristram Stuart, founder of Feeding the 5000, has raised awareness of the potential for certain food waste streams to be used in animal feed.

  • Food & Drink Manufacturing recommendations
    • Food manufacturing businesses of all sizes to adopt the food waste hierarchy and develop action plans to review systems and processes in order to separate food waste.
    • Businesses to include food waste and consideration of the food waste hierarchy in all waste contract specifications.
    • Better coordination between manufacturers, distributors and retailers with optimal storage, handling and forecasting to avoid food waste being shifted across the supply chain, as demonstrated by the IGD waste prevention toolkit.30
    • Further collaboration between the various groups, delivering positive change within the sector to coordinate efforts, share experiences and data.
    • Government to introduce a phased ban on food waste to landfill from 2017 for business, based on turnover and/or volume of waste generated (e.g. above 50kg of food waste per week), to give companies time to look for and adopt alternative disposal options.
View the Case Study

22 Food and Drink Federation: Sustainable Growth in the Food and Drink Manufacturing Industry - 2011

23 Environment Agency website 2013: Food and Drink Manufacturing Sector

24 Waste arising in the supply of food and drink to households in the UK, WRAP 2010

25 Food Industry Sustainability Strategy (FISS) Champions' Group on Waste, 2007

26 Water UK 2009: Position paper: Macerators – the Impact on Sewers

27 WRAP 2011: A survey of the UK organics recycling industry in 2010



30 IGD Supply Chain Waste Prevention Guide 2012