CHAPTER 6: Strategic EU Role |
163. The inquiry took evidence from most witnesses
on the role that the EU could play in preventing and reducing
food waste. This chapter therefore considers what, if any, strategic
role the EU should play.
164. It was clear from the evidence received
that most witnesses see the EU as playing a role in preventing
food waste, several elements of which have already been set out:
standardisation of approaches to defining different material and
waste flows at each stage of the food supply chain, establishment
of a data and monitoring framework across the EU and adapting
current EU reporting procedures, non-binding target setting (Chapter
2); encouraging greater collaboration in, and oversight of, the
supply chain (Chapter 3); assessing the EU's own regulatory framework
to ensure its compatibility with the goal of food waste prevention
(Chapter 4); and monitoring with respect for the waste hierarchy
as applied to food (Chapter 5).
165. In addition to those activities, the Dutch
government also felt that the EU could give an extra impulse to
research and innovation in this area through the EU's research
funding programme, Horizon 2020
(see Box 9).
Horizon 2020 provides 77 billion of funding
to support EU research and innovation between 2014 and 2020.
One element of Horizon 2020 is 'food and healthy
diet'. Under this category, the Programme hopes to create "opportunities
for a sustainable and competitive agri-food industry, through
innovation in food processing". This includes research at
all stages, including food design, packaging, process design and
control, waste reduction and by-product valorisation.
This category further intends to promote "informed
consumer choices", with research focusing on the preferences,
attitudes, needs, behaviour, lifestyle and education of consumers.
As part of this, activities aim to enhance communication between
consumers, the food industry and the research community.
166. Horizon 2020 is the new EU programme for
investment in research and innovation, running from 2014 to 2020.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch government said it is desirable
that within the Horizon 2020 framework the European Commission
should supply "additional support" for research and
innovation to stimulate food waste reduction.
167. We were warned, however, that any research
strategy must be systemic in thinking and take into account the
broader picture, without focusing on single innovations. We heard
that one issue with the Horizon 2020 programme is that it is currently
"siloised" in its activities. Rather, such programmes
require "big systems thinking", taking the whole situation
into account, as otherwise action in one area could result in
creating negative impact elsewhere down the supply chain.
168. One example of a food waste related project
supported by EU research funding is FUSIONS, in relation to which
the inquiry took a substantial amount of evidence (see Appendix
6). It was widely
recognised by witnesses that the task set for FUSIONS is a formidable
one, not least due to its size and the number of project partners
that must be managed. The ambitious targets set by the Commission
were also considered an added challenge to the project.
WRAP informed us that it had written to the FUSIONS project leader
to express concern over the delay in meeting particular milestones.
Despite warnings of failure, it was conceded that FUSIONS is still
relatively embryonic and that it needs to be given more time to
develop before a judgment can be made.
WRAP has agreed to develop an action plan with FUSIONS to ensure
that the project remains on track.
169. Research and innovation are core to progress
in food waste prevention. Conceptually, FUSIONS is an excellent
example of pan-EU collaboration in this area supported by EU research
funding. We are concerned, however, that there is a serious risk
that it will not meet expectations. We recommend that the European
Commission monitor closely the work of FUSIONS, with a view to
intervening if its progress fails to meet expectations.
170. FUSIONS represents the only strategic approach
across the EU to food waste prevention. Unilever called on the
EU to set ambitious goals for food waste prevention and to identify
a coordinated strategy.
It was argued that such an approach is important as food waste
is an issue not limited to one or two countries.
A pan-European strategy would therefore provide clear guidelines
for all Member States, ensuring clarity and consistency, and therefore
prevent misinterpretation of "grey" areas.
171. A number of witnesses also highlighted the
specific role the EU could play in terms of communication and
providing information. Copa-Cogeca noted that the EU could have
a role in actions directly targeted at consumers, including access
to better information regarding food storage.
Sodexo adopted a similar stance, and argued that the EU should
be bringing communication efforts together and driving it through
from the top level down to Member States.
172. Others were less specific, but nevertheless
emphasised the valuable role that the EU could play in sharing
and communicating best practice, particularly valuable given the
highly variable progress made across the EU thus far.
The Dutch government, for example, stated that by simply placing
food waste on the agenda and urging Member States to address the
issue, the Commission could definitely have a "big impact"
throughout Europe. In a broader sense, it stressed that food waste
forms a major pillar within the sustainable food system, necessitating
an integrated approach with all the different stakeholders.
173. Finally, we heard that there is a need for
leadership from the EU. Witnesses argued that by taking such a
role, the EU could stimulate a reduction in food waste, including
a change in culture throughout the supply chain, from consumers
through manufacturers to producers on the farm.
174. The inquiry received diverging evidence
on the costs and benefits of acting to prevent food waste. On
the one hand, emphasis was placed on the inherent 'uncertainties'
of acting on food waste and that "it has to make sense in
the marginal or social cost benefit analysis".
At this stage it was not known how far waste prevention could
go before the costs out-weighed the benefits.
175. On the other hand, the inquiry received
overwhelming evidence of the 'wider costs' of food waste to consumers,
businesses and society, and thus the potential gains to be achieved
from food waste prevention.
Such savings occur not only in the food purchased by consumers,
but in the money spent on energy and water to produce it. Although
minimal data are available from across the EU, we heard that between
2007 and 2012 there was a reduction of 1.3 million tonnes (15%)
in UK household food waste (despite an increase of 4% in the number
of UK households). This reduction reportedly saved UK households
£3.3 billion in 2012 aloneapproximately £130
for the average household. The reduction in food waste in bins
subsequently saved local authorities around £85 million in
avoided Landfill Tax and gate fees in 2012.
WRAP estimates that around 15 million tonnes of food waste arise
in the UK every year, which represents a financial loss to businesses
of at least £5 billion a year,
with a tonne of food wasted in manufacture typically valued at
176. We fail to observe a clear and urgent
strategic direction from the European Commission and Member States
to reduce and prevent food waste. Efforts across the EU are fragmented
and untargeted. The potential gains to be achieved from action
are significant but policy makers have so far been paralysed by
uncertainty. We reject the argument that action should be delayed
until the costs of waste prevention further down the path are
clearer. If the opportunity is not seized to drive action across
the EU, Member States will count the costs.
177. We recommend that, within six months
of entry into office, the new European Commission publish a five-year
strategy on food waste prevention. This should set out a Roadmap
to address the issues raised throughout this inquiry and to ensure
that best practice identified in one Member State can be easily
translated into action elsewhere. It is also vital that coordination
between the Directorates-General is improved, with clearer divisions
- We consider a non-legislative approach to
be appropriate initially, encouraging Member States to take action,
such as the preparation of measurable food waste prevention plans.
Should sufficient action not be identified within five years of
publishing the strategy, a legislative approach should be adopted
by the European Commission.
293 Regulation No 1291/2013 Back
Q 123 Back
Horizon 2020: Food & Healthy Diet, European Commission Back
Q 123 Back
Q 289 Back
Q 3, Q 27, Q 40, Q 51, Q 80, Q 100,
Q 123, Q 204, Q 218, Q 247, Defra, FDF, INCPEN,
Sodexo supplementary, Unilever, WRAP Back
Q 40, Q 51, Q 218, Q 204, Sodexo Back
Q 204 Back
Q 51, Q 204, WRAP further supplementary Back
Q 204 Back
Q 117 Back
Q 62 Back
Q 63 Back
Q 196, Q 235, Q 241 Back
Q 117 Back
Q 38, Q 209, Q 281, Q 285 Back
Q 7 Back
Q 1 Back
Ibid., Q 26, CESA, Defra, FDF, Feeding the 5,000,
IME, NLWA, Packaging Federation, Shropshire Council, Unilever,
WRAP supplementary Back
Q 202, FDF, WRAP Back