Food waste in England Contents


1.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. The UK Government has acknowledged “food waste is an issue requiring urgent action throughout the world”.1

2.In the UK, it is estimated that 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste arises post-farmgate each year in the UK, 60% of which could have been avoided.2 Although actions have led to a reduction of 1.6 million tonnes in the UK’s annual food waste arisings compared to 2007, there is much more to do. Modelling suggests that, without further intervention, food waste may increase again by 1.1 million tonnes by 2025.3

3.Food waste has economic, environmental and social implications and impacts. Economically, food waste has a cost to households and causes increased disposal costs to local authorities. The environmental impact is significant, both in terms of the impact of producing food, which is then wasted, and in terms of the additional emissions of food disposed of via landfill. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)4 estimates that UK food waste is associated with greenhouse gas emissions of over 20 million tonnes, with approximately three-quarters of those emissions arising in the UK and the remainder overseas.5 Globally, the World Resources Institute has stated that food loss and waste, were it a country, would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after the USA and China.6 Finally, wastage of food raises social questions, when others are struggling with food shortages in the UK and abroad.

4.Food waste is a devolved matter in the UK—each administration has its own waste strategy which is broadly similar in theme, but diverges in terms of specific targets and approaches.

Our inquiry

5.We launched our inquiry into food waste in England in July 2016, focusing on consumers, the retail and hospitality sectors, and local government. The manufacturing and agricultural sectors were outside the scope of the inquiry. We invited written submissions on the following areas: the economic, environmental and social impact of food waste in England; effective measures in reducing food waste by retailers, the hospitality sector, local government, and consumers; proposals necessary to further reduce food waste; whether voluntary initiatives work or whether there is a need for legislation; and comparative approaches to reducing and managing food waste in the devolved nations, and across Europe.

6.We took oral evidence from food waste campaigners; redistribution charities; business representatives; retailers; the hospitality sector; local authorities; industry representatives; WRAP; and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). We visited FareShare’s depot in London, and a FoodCycle kitchen in Hackney. We also visited an Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Mitcham, London, owned by Bio Collectors. We are extremely grateful to them and to those who provided oral and written evidence.

7.The unexpected and imminent dissolution of Parliament on Wednesday 3 May has meant that this Report has been produced earlier than expected and within a tight time-frame. We have therefore focused on a number of key issues, where we feel improvements can be made. All the evidence we have received is available on our website. We are confident that our successor Committee will wish to look again at some, or all, of the issues raised in the next Parliament.

1 PQ 26219 [on Food: Waste] 8 February 2016

4 WRAP works with governments, businesses and communities to deliver practical solutions to improve resource efficiency. WRAP is a delivery partner for Defra in England.

6What’s Food Loss and Waste Got to Do with Climate Change? A Lot, Actually.”, World Resources Institute, 11 December 2015

26 April 2017