Feedback call on UK Government to take action against food waste
Feedback have submitted a response to the British Government’s Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry on ‘Food Waste in England’. Read the full response here.
The inquiry seeks to understand the social, economic and environmental impact of food waste at the household, retail, hospitality and local government levels. Feedback join other organisations, including the NFU and Friends of the Earth in calling for the scope of the inquiry to be wider and include a focus on food waste that arises in the supply chain, particularly at the farm level.
Disproportionate attention has been paid to food waste at the household level in England since the launch of the Waste Strategy in 2007. While this has led to significant reductions, primarily through the work of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, we believe that efforts to reduce food waste in the supply chain have been left on the side lines for far too long.
Part of the reason supply chain food waste has been neglected in the UK, and indeed at the international level, is due to the lack of data available. Farmers and other suppliers in the food system are not sufficiently incentivised to measure their food waste. Instead, waste caused by unfair trading practices such as order cancellations and rejections are something that many businesses just have to swallow, as they fear that complaining out about it could cause them to lose business. Similarly cosmetic specifications that lead to ‘imperfect’ produce being wasted, has simply become the norm for many suppliers.
In order to seriously tackle food waste in England and across the United Kingdom, Feedback believes that the government must address the lack of transparent data on supply chain food waste and also tackle the current climate of fear in supermarket supply chains.
Beyond taking action to prevent food waste, the British Government must ensure the correct use of the food waste hierarchy is implemented by food businesses by reviewing the current ban on feeding catering waste to non-ruminant livestock to allow the development of an economic and robustly monitored food to feed industry, and by removing subsidies that prioritise waste management over waste prevention.
Feedback consider that legislation in the following five areas is necessary to effectively reduce food waste in England:
- A UK national food waste reduction target
Alongside Scotland, the UK government should set a target for Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England to halve food waste across the supply chain (including pre retail food waste) by 2030, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development (UNSDG) Goal 12.3 to halve food waste globally by 2030.
- Mandatory industry food waste reporting
The UK government should introduce legislation that makes public reporting of food waste data mandatory for food businesses over a particular size, including data on supply chains. Making this data publicly available would increase competition between businesses generating positive results for consumers, retailers and suppliers.
- Strengthening the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA)
The GCA is limited to regulating the relationship between retailers and their direct (first-tier) suppliers meaning that indirect suppliers are not protected from unfair trading practices (UTPs) that can cause overproduction and food waste. Feedback recommend that the GCA have their remit extended in order to protect indirect suppliers in the same way that direct suppliers are protected.
- Removal of subsidies that incentivise sending edible food to anaerobic digestion
To ensure food waste prevention efforts take priority over anaerobic digestion (AD), in line with the food waste hierarchy, Feedback advocate that Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) are only available for the AD of non-edible food waste that is otherwise destined for landfill, and not any food waste that could be directed further up the hierarchy (as is the case with the Renewable Heat Initiative).
- Revision of the ban on feeding catering waste to non-ruminant livestock
Feedback advocates the use of regulated, centralized, sophisticated catering waste treatment systems to ensure food waste can safely be used in feed for non-ruminants (pigs and chickens). Legislation is currently blocking such systems from being created that could simultaneously reduce food waste, create jobs, and significantly improve the environmental impact of meat production.
 The UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 seeks to halve food waste globally by 2030 at the household and retail level, whilst recommending efforts should also be made to reduce supply chain waste albeit without a measurable reduction target.