Food waste in England Contents
Food waste is a global public policy issue. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes per year.
In the UK, it is estimated that 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste arises post-farmgate each year, 60% of which could be avoided. This has serious economic, environmental and social implications and impacts. Our Report focused on consumers, the retail and hospitality sectors, and local government. The manufacturing and agricultural sectors were outside the scope of the inquiry.
The Committee’s key recommendations and conclusions are:
- We recommend that the incoming Government works with the Environment Agency to enforce the waste hierarchy, for the benefit of all.
- The Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement. We were disappointed to hear that a large number of manufactures had not signed up to its targets. We call on WRAP and the Government to re-double their efforts to increase participation in the Courtauld process by food manufacturers.
- We recommend that there should be a national food waste target. An ambitious, formal target on food waste would influence the Government’s approach to food waste, ensuring that there continues to be a focus on reducing food waste.
- We commend the work that has been undertaken by WRAP to spur food waste reduction. We are concerned that, despite its significant achievements, Defra’s funding for WRAP has reduced over recent years. It is essential that the Government provides WRAP with sufficient public funding so that, alongside investment from other sources such as trusts and charities, it has adequate resources to enable it to maintain its food waste reduction programmes. We urge Defra to increase the funding if evidence suggests it is necessary in the lead up to 2025.
- We commend Tesco for publishing its food waste data from across the supply chain. Sainsbury’s is moving in the same direction, but needs more transparency. The fact that no other retailers have followed their lead shows that a voluntary approach is inadequate. We recommend that the incoming Government requires food businesses over a particular size to publicly report data on food waste. This would create much more transparency.
- Retailers must work with WRAP to agree a consistent method of reporting, enabling comparisons to be drawn.
- We recommend that the incoming Government continues the current review with WRAP and the Food Standards Agency on food date labelling, with a view to issuing guidance to industry by the end of 2017. The review should specifically look at whether there is a need for ‘best before’ dates at all.
- We recommend that retailers relax their quality standards and start selling “wonky vegetables” as part of their main fruit and vegetable lines.
- We welcome the will shown by retailers to redistribute surplus food. However, we believe that more must be done. There is a huge amount of surplus food that is currently not being redistributed. We urge WRAP to set retailers a target of doubling the proportion of surplus food they redistribute to charities and voluntary organisations and to agree this target, and the timescale over which it will be achieved. Retailers must ensure that the political will in their head offices is turned into action at a local level.
- We recommend that Government intervention in particular industries, such as anaerobic digestion, does not discourage the best possible use of food waste, as set out in the food waste hierarchy.
- We recommend that the incoming Government takes steps to better communicate the current tax breaks and incentives that are available to companies, in order to support their efforts to redistribute surplus food.
- We recommend that the incoming Government undertakes an assessment of how it might further promote the redistribution of surplus food by additional fiscal measures.
- On balance, we conclude that local authorities should remain responsible for addressing the specific challenges and barriers to increasing food waste collections that they face at a local level. However, guidance and best practice should be shared at a national level in order to move towards a standardised approach and to assist local authorities to improve their individual performance. The incoming Government must examine opportunities to incentivise local authorities.
- We recommend that the incoming Government works closely with WRAP and Local Authorities to ensure that separate food waste collections are offered to as many households as possible within England. Local authorities must look at the opportunities to introduce separate food waste collection when new waste contracts are put in place.
- We recommend that the incoming Government considers a national strategy to ensure a consistent collection of waste and recycling across England.
- We recommend that the incoming Government requires food businesses and retailers to separate food waste. This should be done through a phased approach, applying first to businesses that produce more than 50kg of food waste per week, then applying to smaller food businesses that produce between 5kg and 50kg of food waste per week.