Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food
Waste Prevention |
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
The impetus behind the inquiry
1. It has been estimated that 89 million tonnes
of food are wasted each year in the EU, a figure which could rise
to approximately 126 million tonnes by 2020 if no action is taken.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states
that every year consumers in industrialised countries waste approximately
222 million tonnes of food, which is almost as much as the entire
net food production of sub-Saharan Africa, equating to 230 million
2. Food waste has important economic, environmental
and social implications. A tonne of food wasted in food manufacturing
in the UK is estimated to have a value of at least £950.
The global carbon footprint of wasted food has been estimated
as more than twice the total greenhouse gas emissions of all road
transportation in the US in 2010.
With the global population expected to grow rapidly over the next
decade, such wastage will become even less sustainable as demand
for food rises. Furthermore,
food and drink production requires substantial inputs of water,
energy and pesticides. It is increasingly recognised that making
efficient use of resources must be at the heart of policy making.
In addition, others have noted that manufacturers could increase
their profits by 12% every year by becoming more resource efficient.
The combination of all these factors led us to conduct this inquiry.
3. We feel that the scale of the problem requires
significant and urgent action, despite outstanding issues relating
to definition and monitoring.
Evolving European policy
4. This inquiry was stimulated by evolving policy
at the EU level. The European Parliament adopted a resolution
on 19 January 2012 on how to avoid food wastage,
which recommended that the European Commission take practical
measures towards halving food waste by 2025. The Commission recommended
in its Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, in 2011, that disposal
of edible food waste should be halved by 2020.
At that stage, the Commission also promised a Communication on
Sustainable Food, which is due to be published in 2014.
5. In parallel, the Commission is pursuing other
avenues to tackle the problem. It published a Retail Action Plan
in January 2013, including a section on food waste reduction.
The Commission indicated that, in the context of existing EU Platforms,
such as the Retail Forum for Sustainability, it will support retailers
to implement actions to reduce food waste without compromising
6. The EU's body of waste policy more generally
is under review by the Commission during 2014. Clear links between
food waste and other waste policies are made during the report,
particularly in Chapter 5.
7. Finally, 2014 is a pivotal year for the design
of programmes that implement key policies such as the reformed
Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, both of which, as
we explore in Chapter 4, pertain to the food waste prevention
The food waste debate context
8. Thus far, there is no common definition of
food waste. The UK's Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
defines it as all food and drink discarded throughout the entire
food chain, but has also disaggregated it into three types of
waste; possibly avoidable;
and avoidable waste.
Data and frameworks for the monitoring and reporting of food waste
are also, as we explore in the report, lacking at the EU level
and, often, at the national level.
9. Food is wasted throughout the entire supply
chain, not only during
final consumption. It is affected by interactions along the supply
chainfor example, contractual relations, cosmetic standards,
timings of delivery, or labelling by retailers. Levels of food
waste can also be affected by regulatory approaches to matters
such as food marketing standards, food hygiene, date labelling,
animal health and waste management. While some of these issues,
such as waste management priorities, can be tackled at a local
level, some require consideration at an EU level.
10. Among EU Member States, some action is already
being taken, as illustrated throughout the report. Action is often
in the form of voluntary agreements, such as the UK's Courtauld
Commitment (see Appendix 5). Stakeholders from across the supply
chain are beginning to cooperate on some of the key issues in
the context of an EU-funded research project known as FUSIONS
(Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention
Strategies) (see Appendix 6). Such initiatives tend to be taken
in isolation from each other, rather than within the context of
a broad strategy.
What the inquiry covers
11. This inquiry has taken into account a range
of issues surrounding the food waste debate across Europe, including:
the challenges surrounding a common definition of 'food waste';
the reliability and amount of data and evidence collected on food
waste; the possible inclusion of an EU target; food waste along
the entire supply chain; the impact of EU regulation; respecting
the 'waste hierarchy'; and what, if any, strategic role the EU
12. Our focus is the prevention and reduction
of food waste, rather than its management once created. The House
of Lords' Science and Technology Committee recently published
a report exploring how carbon-containing wastes (including food
waste) can be transformed into useful, high value products.
13. As this inquiry has focused on the European
context, we have not considered the issue of any food waste associated
with EU imports from developing countries. Furthermore, we have
not considered the use of genetically modified food, the issue
of overconsumption or historic overproduction caused by the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP).
14. We also highlight that, although much reference
is made to work being conducted in the UK and the Netherlands,
this is not because we consider them to be superior in terms of
tackling food waste. Our evidence was clear that these two countries
are taking a lead on the issues covered by this inquiry, particularly
in relation to available data and evidence. Good work is certainly
being conducted in other countries across Europe, as we explain
in Appendix 8.
15. Whilst this report is made to the House,
it is also aimed at a wide range of policymakers and others, within
the UK and across the EU. In particular, we trust that both the
current and incoming Commission will take note of our report and
we look forward to the Commission's response in the context of
the political dialogue between the Commission and national parliaments.
Our hope is that this report will also inspire governments of
individual Member States and stakeholders throughout the entire
supply chain. We are contributing to an ongoing debate, and we
do not prescribe one single solution. Instead, we suggest a range
of practical options, which we hope will move the food waste debate
on from rhetoric to action.
16. We issued our call for evidence in August
2013 and took oral evidence from a range of UK and EU witnesses
between October 2013 and January 2014. Overall, we received 27
pieces of written evidence and took oral evidence from 59 witnesses,
held over 22 evidence sessions. In addition to the evidence taken
in the UK, we were fortunate to speak with stakeholders in the
Netherlands, who ranged from government departments to representatives
of Dutch food banks. Our findings are of relevance to policies
within the broader EU, with some reference to how this might impact
the UK. It must, however, be stressed that we did not concentrate
on UK policy.
17. The Members of the Agriculture, Fisheries,
Environment and Energy Sub-Committee who carried out the inquiry
are listed in Appendix 1, which shows their declared interests.
We are grateful for the written and oral evidence that was submitted
to the inquiry; the witnesses who provided it are shown in Appendix
2. We are also grateful to Dr Julian Parfitt, Principal Resource
Analyst, Oakdene Hollins Research and Consulting, who acted as
Specialist Adviser to the inquiry.
18. The call for evidence is shown in Appendix
3. The evidence received is published online.
- We make this report to the House for debate.
1 Preparatory study on food waste across EU 27,
BIO Intelligence Service, a report commissioned by the European
Commission, October 2010 Back
Global food losses and food waste: extent, causes and prevention,
the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, May 2011, a
report for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United
Q 202, FDF, WRAP Back
Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources - Summary
Report, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations,
Q 34, Q 281, ARAMARK, FDF, IME, NFU Back
'Sweating our Assets': Productivity and Efficiency across the
UK Economy, Conservative
2020 Group, February 2014 Back
European Parliament resolution of 19 January 2012 on how to
avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain
in the EU (2011/2175 (INI)), European Parliament Back
COM(2011) 571 Back
COM(2013) 36 Back
Household Food and Drink Waste in the United Kingdom 2012,
Final Report, WRAP Back
Waste arising from food and drink preparation that is not, and
has not been, edible under normal circumstances. This includes
egg shells, pineapple skin, apple cores, meat bones, tea bags
and coffee grounds. Back
Food and drink that some people eat and others do not, such as
bread crusts and potato skins. Back
Food and drink thrown away because it is no longer wanted or has
been allowed to go past its prime. It includes foods or parts
of foods that are considered edible by the vast majority of people. Back
For the purposes of this report, the supply chain is: producers
and growers; manufacturers and processors; the hospitality sector
and retailers; and consumers. Back
Science and Technology Committee, Waste or resource? Stimulating
a bioeconomy (3rd Report, Session 2013-14, HL Paper 141) Back
Evidence published online is available at http://www.parliament.uk/hleud.