UK retailers have failed to meet a target to reduce packaging waste as part of an initiative set up by the grocery sector and WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) in 2005.

Thirteen leading food and beverage companies, including Nestle, Dairy Crest and Premier Foods plc, signed up to the Courtauld Commitment – backed by the UK government – with the aim of cutting waste by 5% in three years.

However, of the three targets set, the third has not been achieved, figures from WRAP show, with total packaging consistently remaining at around 2.9m tonnes between 2006 and 2009.

WRAP blamed the failure on a 6.4% increase in grocery sales volumes since the agreement began and participating retailers “taking a greater proportion of the market for beer and wine”. Bottles and cans for beer, wine and cider represent a third of all grocery packaging by weight.

Despite this, two of the three targets were exceeded – to “design out” packaging waste growth, and reduce food waste by 155,000 tonnes per year.

Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP, which manages the Courtauld Commitment, said the responsibility deal between the public and private sector had been “critical” in tackling packaging and food waste.

“This is good progress particularly against the backdrop of an unexpected increase in grocery sales,” Goodwin said. “Bringing together major players, including all the big supermarkets, and drawing on our combined expertise, is really helping householders put less packaging and food waste in their bins.

“We’re especially pleased with the food waste reduction which is way beyond target. It shows how a collaborative approach between the grocery sector, consumers and local authorities can work to reduce waste and save people money,” she added.