Food waste in England Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Food Waste hierarchy

1.The waste hierarchy exists to prevent and manage food waste and to minimise the impact on the environment. We are concerned at reports that the waste hierarchy, whilst widely acknowledged as necessary, is apparently not being enforced. (Paragraph 14)

2.We recommend that the incoming Government works with the Environment Agency to enforce the waste hierarchy, for the benefit of all. (Paragraph 14)


3.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. (Paragraph 23)

4.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. (Paragraph 24)

5.Householders have a key role to play in reducing food waste. We are disappointed that food waste reduction in households has stalled. This level of waste is unacceptable economically, socially and environmentally. The work to reduce food waste further will be hugely challenging and require a considerable investment of resource. (Paragraph 35)

6.A priority must be placed on awareness-raising work. We welcome the work that has been done by WRAP in the last decade, and strongly believe that the research, advice and information provided by the organisation is invaluable. (Paragraph 36)

7.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. (Paragraph 37)

8.We believe that awareness of food and food waste should start at an early age in schools. We recommend that the Government examine how lessons on food and food waste can be incorporated as part of the school curriculum. (Paragraph 38)

9.A large proportion of unnecessary waste in the hospitality sector is the result of large portion sizes and resulting waste left on customers’ plates. The incoming Government must work with the hospitality sector to encourage it to examine ways of preventing plate wastage, for example, by offering smaller portions, by providing clarity on the sides that arrive with a meal, reducing the amount of sides, and encouraging take-home service for leftovers. (Paragraph 47)

10.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. (Paragraph 54)

11.Retailers must work with WRAP to agree a consistent method of reporting, enabling comparisons to be drawn. (Paragraph 55)

12.We recommend that food businesses over a particular size are required to produce a Food Surplus and Waste Management Plan. (Paragraph 58)

13.We believe that current date labelling on food products is potentially misleading and unnecessarily confusing to consumers. (Paragraph 66)

14.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. (Paragraph 67)

15.It is not always clear to consumers what the role of packaging is, nor how to use packaging to make food last longer. Retailers have an important role to play in raising consumers’ awareness. (Paragraph 73)

16.We recommend that retailers should make improvements to their packaging, such as increasing the use of split and re-sealable packets, to help consumers reduce food waste. (Paragraph 74)

17.Further, we recommend that retailers should make food storage instructions clearer on packaging. (Paragraph 75)

18.Retailers must work harder to explain to customers the role that packaging plays in reducing food waste. (Paragraph 76)

19.Retailers have set unnecessary cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables. The result of this is that these “wonky vegetables” are either not being sold or are being sold at discounted prices. Supermarkets’ standards are contributing to England’s food waste problem. (Paragraph 82)

20.We recommend that retailers relax their quality standards and start selling “wonky vegetables” as part of their main fruit and vegetable lines. (Paragraph 83)


21.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. (Paragraph 101)

22.It is concerning that current government policies and incentives designed to improve and manage food waste are actually encouraging the waste hierarchy to be ignored. (Paragraph 102)

23.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. (Paragraph 103)

24.We recommend that the incoming Government takes steps to better communicate the current tax breaks or incentives that are available to companies, in order to support their efforts to redistribute surplus food. (Paragraph 104)

25.We recommend that the incoming Government undertakes an assessment of how it might further promote the redistribution of surplus food by additional fiscal measures. (Paragraph 105)


26.Across England there is considerable disparity regarding the waste services provided to households. Food waste is not consistently collected. Food waste that could be turned into energy through anaerobic digestion is being sent further down the waste hierarchy. We are sending waste to landfill that could help power the National Grid and could provide a good agricultural fertiliser. (Paragraph 127)

27.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. (Paragraph 128)

28.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. (Paragraph 129)

29.We recommend that the incoming Government considers a national strategy to ensure a consistent collection of waste and recycling across England. (Paragraph 130)

30.The availability of the separate collection of food waste from mixed waste is an important part of diverting food waste from disposal. We believe that separate food waste collections from food businesses offer an opportunity to divert waste from lower down the waste hierarchy. (Paragraph 138)

31.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. (Paragraph 139)

26 April 2017