supermarket biscuit aisle in the UK.
Supermarket waste statistics

Retail Waste Statistics

There are more than 250,000 retail outlets across the UK. These range from small corner shops to international supermarkets, but they’ve all got one thing in common – each one of them generates all sorts of waste. Retailers in the UK produce 1.1 million tonnes of waste every year.

It’s a huge issue for the retail industry as massive amounts of food, cardboard, and many other materials go to waste from our shops and supermarkets. Lots of this refuse could be recovered, recycled, and reused, which would benefit the environment and save shops costs on waste disposal.

Shop around for some interesting information about the rubbish that stores create across the country and the wider world with these retail waste statistics and facts.

What causes retail waste?

Food and drinks are one of the main sources of waste in retail and there are a few reasons for this. Poor stock rotation and storing edible goods in the wrong place and conditions can result in expired and spoiled foodstuffs. They can also experience damage during transportation that renders food unsellable.

Packaging waste is another huge issue for retailers. This includes the countless wooden pallets used to transport all sorts of goods, as well as the cardboard boxes and plastic bags and wrap that secures some items. Once the goods are on the shelves these materials instantly become waste.

Staff and customer errors and mistakes such as dropping items in a store can lead to items being broken and creating waste. Then there’s the chemical waste from cleaning activities and sanitary waste as every customer and staff toilet must have a sanitary waste bin. Broken electronic equipment like card machines, stock, and scanners causes WEEE too.

Retail waste facts

The retail industry is valued at around £441 billion in the UK with more than 250,000 outlets operating across the country. This includes a range of shops, supermarkets, and stores of various sizes that sell a wide range of different products. It also means the sector produces mountains of many waste types.

Due to the varied nature of retail, it’s hard to pinpoint exact facts and figures about how much waste the industry creates. We’ve done some digging and found a few bargains with these facts about waste in retail:

  • The retail sector generates 1.1 million tonnes of waste each year in the UK
  • UK retailers produce almost 280,000 tonnes of food waste every year
  • The equivalent of 190 million meals are thrown out by retailers across the UK annually
  • Only 2% of total food waste comes from the retail industry, according to WRAP
  • Just 7% of surplus food from the UK retail sector is redistributed
  • Retail sales of single-use carrier bags are falling but still 197 million were sold in shops in 2022
  • The UK retail sector has a carbon footprint of 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 – similar to yearly emissions of 1.5 million cars, according to WRAP
  • In the USA, the retail industry generates $2 billion worth of waste every year
How to reduce retail waste
woman shopping in a supermarket aisle.

Supermarket waste statistics

Supermarkets have around 85% of the market share for grocery shops in the UK. It’s therefore little surprise that they’re responsible for most of the retail waste produced across the sector. This includes disposing of lots of packaging waste, food, and many other materials including spoiled stock and materials used during daily operations.

Get a sense of how much rubbish the big shops generate with these supermarket waste statistics

  • UK supermarkets create more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year
  • Supermarkets are responsible for around half of all plastic waste in the country
  • Around 270 tonnes of till receipts are printed each week at UK supermarkets – enough to stretch out for 26,000 miles
  • Between 75 and 85% of waste that supermarkets generate is recyclable or compostable
  • However, 40% of materials in customers’ baskets and shopping trolleys are not recyclable

Supermarket food waste statistics 

Retail food waste statistics take into account refuse from other stores such as corner shops, service stations, and petrol stations. Supermarkets are responsible for the vast amount of retail food waste though. This includes spoilage from damaged stock but expired foodstuffs past their sell-by date are the main cause of waste food in supermarkets.

Fill your basket with these supermarket food waste statistics in the UK:

  • 240,000 tonnes of food waste in the retail industry are created by supermarkets
  • Supermarkets in the UK throw away 100,000 tonnes of edible food every year, according to The Grocer
  • The equivalent of 190 million meals are chucked out with food waste from supermarkets
  • Food waste costs UK supermarkets around £1 billion every year
  • Only 9% of food waste from supermarkets is donated to charities
How to start a zero waste shop
fruit on the shelves of a supermarket.

How should I get rid of retail waste?

Every retailer in the UK must use licensed waste carriers to remove all rubbish they produce. This includes waste food, cardboard, and pallets whether you run a supermarket, pet store, or village shop. It’s important that materials are separated and stored in different bins to reduce the risk of contamination and improve recycling rates.

At Business Waste we can provide free bins for shops of any type, size, and location in the UK. There are no delivery or rental fees – you only pay for collection, with daily, weekly, and fortnightly removals available. Licensed waste carriers will collect your waste and dispose of it safely and legally away from landfill.

Get a free quote for your retail waste collection today – call 0800 211 8390 or contact us online. Tell us the types and rough amounts of waste you need collected, where from, and how often for a bespoke price. One of our friendly team can answer any questions and work out a cost-effective solution.

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