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Stop Food Waste (to)Day

Management & Regulation, Natural Environment, Waste & Resources, Water Resources

Stop Food Waste (to)Day

Photo by Ronny Kind on Unsplash

Photo by Ronny Kind on Unsplash.

To mark Stop Food Waste Day (24th April), CIWEM Policy Adviser Sarah Anderton has set out what's being done to tackle food waste in the UK and what more we need to see.

How much is wasted?

If you didn’t know already, food waste is a big issue. It’s a global issue. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that around a third of food produced for humans is wasted, equating to around 1.3 billion tonnes a year! In the UK food waste has been estimated at 10 million tonnes per year, post farmgate, with a whopping 60% of that being avoidable.

What are the impacts?

Food waste is problematic for so many reasons:

On the current trajectory we risk insufficient progress on UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 (zero hunger) and 12 (responsible consumption and production) and on reducing greenhouse gas production to limit global warming to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s target of 1.5 oC.

What’s being done?

Richard Swannell, Director WRAP Global recently said that “Changing the global food system is probably one of the biggest challenges we face. But we believe there is an appetite for change amongst citizens and in the food industry”. We’re seeing this reflected through policy attention, but as ever there’s always more to be done.

So far:

  • Companies are required to deal with waste in line with the waste hierarchy, set out in the EU Waste Framework Directive and incorporated into UK law.
  • Government has a target to “eliminate avoidable waste by 2050 and to work towards eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030”.
  • £15 million funding has been set aside for pilots to reduce food waste.
  • Ben Elliot was appointed as Food Surplus Waste Champion to promote awareness of the issue.
  • The Resources and Waste Strategy promised consultations on annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses, and on legal powers to introduce mandatory targets for food waste.
  • The voluntary Courtauld Commitment, aimed at improving efficiency and reducing waste in the grocery sector, has reached its third phase. Having achieved significant packaging and waste reductions in phases one and two.

What more needs doing?

Whilst food waste is clearly on the Government and Industry’s agenda there are areas that we need to see greater ambition:

  • England's target of ‘working towards’ eliminating food waste by 2030 needs to be strengthened.
  • Food waste should be addressed holistically. Whilst supporting redistribution of food that would otherwise go to waste is good in many ways, we also need to get to the root of related issues around over production, universal credit and the living wage.
  • Voluntary industry agreements need better participation rates.
  • Retailers need to be more transparent about food waste in their supply chains and their actions to reduce it, reporting may need to be a statutory requirement.
  • All Local Authorities should be required to provide separate food waste collections.
  • A better food labelling system for best before dates and consumer education.
  • We need to embrace lower cosmetic standards for food on a wide scale.
  • Measures to reduce waste need to be combined with improvements in sustainable production and consumption patterns.

How can I help?

WRAP came up with 5 key actions for businesses to take to reduce food and packaging waste, could you bring these up in your office?

    1. Measure the waste
    2. Cost it properly
    3. Set a target for waste reduction
    4. Take action on the highest waste areas first
    5. Embed a culture of waste prevention.

At an individual level, there are plenty of actions to take too. From changing your shopping habits to upping your left overs game and recycling if you can. The FOA have 9 tips here. If I could add just one on top it’d be to talk about the issue because it spurs collective action, providing greater waste reductions, and puts more pressure on suppliers and politicians to take bigger steps, faster.

Sarah Anderton


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