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Retailer’s Eco Strategy for Food Waste and Plastic Usage

In the last decade the consumer has been flooded with news articles regarding current plastic usage and food waste. In the light of Zero Waste Week 2018, GCL has explored current UK retailers Eco Strategy.

In the last decade, the consumer has been flooded with news articles regarding current plastic usage and food waste. Food production can be the biggest impact humans have on nature. With a skewed global consumer usage, GCL has educated themselves on the deeper issue of this growing concern.

Food Waste

According to a recent study, it has been discovered that the average person will waste  280kg of food per year. However, the consumer is not to  be blamed,  but current food industry practises.

The food supply chain can be complex with numerous high mileage stages. Each stage of the chain (farmers, harvest, processor, distributor, retailer to consumer) has implications to society and environment with a third of all food being lost or wasted between the supply chain. The benefits of reducing food waste include; saving money for all stages of food chain, feeding a wider audience , alleviating pressures from the environment.

One simple solution was the use of high technology food packaging. This extends the shelf life of food and hence the reduction of food waste. However, recent evidence of food packaging waste has shown that it is not the end all solution with links to marine and terrestrial destruction

Food Packaging

By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. In 25 years’ time the people in the UK would have used 192.5 billion plastic bottles.As leading supermarkets give an insight into the 800,000 tons of plastic waste every year, innovations are being created to amend this concern. .

One quick fix to this gigantic issue is the use of recycling. Currently, 14% of the plastic packaging used globally is recycled, 40% ends up in landfill and a third in the ecosystem. These figures show that the extent of manufacture dependency is high.

Nevertheless, 91% of consumers believe that recycling makes a difference to the environment. In contrast, household recycling rates in the UK have fallen over the last five years. This suggests that the UK is unlikely to meet its 2020 target of recycling 50% of household waste.

Supermarket Strategy

The UK government has a plan to eliminate all avoidance waste within 25 years. Policies include;  applying a new charge for single use plastic containers, encourage supermarkets to introduce aisles that are plastic free and help developing nations deal with plastic waste.

As over 75% of UK consumers expect companies to ensure that food packaging is sustainable in the UK, retailers are manipulating their current strategy to include environmental welfare.

The real solution to the problem would be investment in curbing food waste via new equipment, product redesigns and awareness campaigns. With such investment, foodservice, hospitality and retail could create a 14 fold return on the initial costs.


Tesco is the official sponsor of the Waste Not Want Not Grocer movement. This aims to tackle the 1.9 million tonnes of food wasted each year. This is achieved by encouraging transparency, collaboration and co- operation among industry and UK supply chain


Sainsbury’s is the first grocery retailer to send zero operational waste to landfill.

Sainsbury’s  work closely with farmers and growers to ensure that customer demand matches to quantity order.

In addition, the company continually looks at innovative and on trend product designs and formats. One successful product is  boodles to combat the issue of wonky butternut squash vegetables.

The company has also launched  a thermochromics’ smart label in it’s own label ham to show consumer’s habits how fresh their ham is.

Equally, Sainsbury’s  has over 1,000 food donation partnerships and donated nearly two and a half times as much food as they did the year before. If food is unable to be donated then it gets turned into animal feed.

M &  S

M & S have trialled laser technology on some of its fresh fruit and vegetables to remove unnecessary stickers and plastic coverings for educational purposes.

The removal of stickers in fresh produced would save 10 tonnes of paper and 5 tonnes of glue every year


Aldi aims source all of its pulp based packaging material from forests certified by the FSC ( Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC ( Programme for the Endorsement of Forest certification).

Is it enough?

Disregarding all retailer efforts, 73% of consumers agree that retailers should offer greater help with recycling product packaging and food waste. Greater clarity on which aspects of food packaging can be recycled would encourage consumers to recycle more frequently.

At GCL, we constantly measure and monitor our wastage rates and the quality of our production belts. In fact, we supply to The Real Junk Food Project who divert food destined to waste and use it to create delicious innovative and healthy meals.

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September 6, 2018