Solutions around drinks waste

The drinks industry in the UK can be divided into alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories. Together they are estimated to contribute around 2.3 million tonnes of packaging into the UK’s waste stream - with about half being disposed of by consumers as domestic waste.

Common drinks packaging formats are bottles, cans, liquid cartons and pouches.  They come in glass, plastic (such as PET and HDPE), metals (steel and aluminium), paper and card and other multi-layered materials.

Scope for making efficiencies

The drinks industry has been working closely with WRAP to optimise packaging and are looking at where further efficiencies can be made through:

  • using less material during the product design process;
  • considering re-use opportunities;
  • reducing packaging weight;
  • increasing the use of recycled content; and
  • designing for recyclability to encourage recycling and support closed loop systems.

The main category areas of focus are: 

Alcoholic Drinks: Wine, Beer & Cider and Spirits

Non-Alcoholic Drinks: Soft drinks (including bottled water).  (Note: this excludes milk, tea and coffee which can be found under the Chilled & Frozen and Ambient categories).

Supporting the retail supply chain

WRAP has been working alongside the drinks supply chain (manufacturers, fillers, retailers, brands) and trade associations to identify opportunities for collaboration and to develop plans to improve resource efficiency across the sector.  This includes own-label and branded products. 

Helping the consumer

It is estimated that 1.8 million tonnes per year of food and drink (770 million litres of drink) is disposed of by UK householders 'down the drain'.  Most of this could have been avoided if it had been better stored in the home, or with better planning or preparation. 

By far the biggest amount thrown away is drink and dairy - milk being the most, followed by carbonated soft drinks, then fruit juice and smoothies. 

WRAP is addressing this by, amongst other things, investigating portioning, pack sizes, use of new technology such as in-store self-dispensing and researching consumer behaviour and developing specific messaging.

Lord Henley quote

At the inaugural meeting of the Courtauld Commitment 2 in July 2010, Lord Henley, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said:

"This government is right behind you … and waste is one of the biggest environmental challenges facing this country.  We must all work together, exploring ideas, sharing innovations and successes."  

The drinks sector was highlighted as being key to achieving the Commitment.