Tag: waste

Feedback’s response to the ADBA’s article ‘Why you MUST invest in anaerobic digestion and biogas to build back greener’

6th Nov 20 by Martin Bowman, Senior Policy and Campaign Manager

Feedback provides some clarity and accuracy on our research findings on AD.

Feedback welcome the ADBA’s response to our Executive Director’s recent article in Responsible Investor – however, since the ADBA misrepresent our view and the issues, we hope that this response provides some clarity. For more info, read our report on AD.

A summary of Feedback’s advice to investors

Don’t invest in:

  • AD plants which run on bioenergy crops like maize or grass – even if these are co-digested
  • AD plants built on newly built or newly expanded intensive livestock farms
  • AD plants which lower the costs of animal waste disposal for intensive livestock farms
  • AD plants which process food waste edible to humans or animals
  • AD plants which charge little or nothing for waste disposal or actively pay for wastes, and thus disincentivise waste prevention

Do invest in:

  • AD plants which digest sewage feedstocks
  • AD plants which process only manures and slurries on smaller-scale more sustainable livestock farms
  • AD plants which take on unavoidable food waste which is not edible to humans or animals
  • AD plants which charge higher gate fees to take on food wastes or animal slurries


First, the points on which we agree: AD does have some role in a sustainable future, as a last-resort waste management option – as we argue in our report, there is a ‘sustainable niche’ for AD. AD is certainly better than landfill and incineration of food waste, and is preferable to open storage of manure and slurries – practices which should be heavily taxed and banned as soon as possible. To be clear, this will require some growth in the AD industry, and investment to this end – so it is sometimes sustainable to invest in AD, within limits and in some specific situations. We also agree that sewage treatment by AD is part of this sustainable niche. ADBA’s false claim that Feedback assume AD can only be used to treat food waste is misplaced – our report and the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study on which it is based, examine bioenergy crops, manure and slurries too.

However, crucially we model two scenarios: the “industry driven AD” scenario in line with ADBA’s ambitions for AD industry growth, and the “climate optimised AD” scenario where environmentally preferable alternative uses for AD feedstocks are maximized (like food waste prevention) with remaining feedstocks used for AD. In the climate-optimised scenario, we model no bioenergy crops and about a third less food waste going to AD, and additionally we model a context where meat production (and thus availability of manure and slurries) is roughly halved – but all available slurries go to AD in both scenarios. The LCA found that the climate optimised scenario resulted in over double the emissions savings, as well as generating more energy (generated by solar PV on land previously used for bioenergy crops) and significantly higher food production on spared cropland.

ADBA’s presentation of AD as a “win-win-win-win” solution is a simplistic fantasy, although not a surprising stance to take for a body set up to promote the AD industry. Our ground-breaking LCA study, completed in collaboration with academic experts at Bangor University, shows a far more complex and nuanced picture, with some serious limitations to AD. Below, we highlight four key problems:

The first problem is that, as the ADBA acknowledge, AD is far less effective than waste prevention. In fact, preventing food waste results in 9 times more emissions savings than sending it to AD, and if trees are planted on the spared grassland, about 40 times more. The ADBA also often ignore animal feed – our LCA found that sending food waste to animal feed saves 3 times more emissions than sending it to AD. This makes food waste prevention, and using food waste as animal feed, far more effective green investments – and means that only unavoidable food waste inedible to both humans and animals should be sent to AD. Within the current legal framework, there is plenty of scope to increase the processing of food waste like bread for animal feeds – and EU-funded research found that it is possible to feed food waste containing meat to pigs and chickens safely, if EU law is reformed to allow this in a safely regulated fashion. When it comes to manures and slurries, these wastes can be prevented too – through shifts from meat to plant-based diets. For instance, switching from pig meat to a plant-based protein alternative such as tofu results in a 74% reduction in emissions and 80% in land use – land which can then be used for tree planting to offset emissions even further. The emissions savings from sending slurries to AD are far smaller in comparison – so investing in plant-based alternatives to meat would be a far greener investment, from pulses and beans to plant-based burgers and milks. Investors looking to green their portfolios should aim to support dietary shifts as a priority, with AD only used to mitigate the emissions of a smaller, more sustainable livestock sector.

The second problem is that high subsidies to AD create perverse incentives, sometimes actively impeding the better waste prevention alternatives mentioned above. It is completely disingenuous of the ADBA to claim that they are not advocating for high subsidies locked in for decades – their own report clearly advises that AD subsidies are returned to the very high levels of 2011-15, that large-scale AD is subsidised at the same high levels as small-scale plants, and that these be guaranteed for decades into the future. In Northern Ireland, AD subsidies at a similar high level to those advocated by the ADBA were explicitly designed as a means to support an explosion in the size of the country’s intensive livestock industry. Through reducing the industry’s waste disposal costs (even paying for their waste), enabling sites to gain planning permission and bypass environmental regulations, highly subsidised AD plants actually helped expand the polluting industry it was meant to be reducing the environmental effects of. In the case of food waste too, testimonies to a House of Lords enquiry complained that high AD subsidies created perverse incentives to send edible food to AD rather than ensure it is eaten, and Feedback has found many other instances of such complaints. In one case, Feedback’s investigations found an AD plant in a port that in a single day was processing an estimated 60,000 cucumbers, 10,000 figs, 4,000 cabbages and many other foods – which all appeared edible. In this context of distorting high subsidies, investments in some AD plants may thus actively prevent far more sustainable alternatives. The better way to make AD plants financially sustainable without creating these perverse incentives is to tax or ban worse alternatives to AD, such as incineration, landfill, and open manure storage, thus pushing up the supply of wastes to AD and gate fees they can charge for collection.

The third problem is that AD’s emissions mitigation potential significantly declines over time. This is a big problem, since AD plants often take decades of highly subsidised operation to break even on their high up-front costs. The reason for the decline is that as society decarbonises, the emissions that AD currently mitigates are often avoided by other means – for instance, as the electricity grid shifts to renewables, heat and transport are electrified, landfill and open manure storage are banned, AD begins to compare less and less favourably with alternatives. Our study found that some AD feedstocks like grass even begin to have a negative rather than positive environmental impact in a net zero context. This means that the green credentials of investments in AD will decline significantly over time. In comparison, food waste prevention, tree planting, dietary change and solar PV consistently far outperform AD in future decarbonisation contexts (see our report for more detail on this).

The final problem with AD is that, although the AD industry claim that they only want “unavoidable” wastes to go to AD, they have a strong incentive to downplay how much waste is “avoidable” to maximize their growth. The ADBA nowhere in its report mentions dietary shifts away from meat as an option and only currently support the UK’s unambitious voluntary targets on food waste, which pledge only a 24% reduction in post-farmgate food waste between 2015 and 2030. A 50% reduction in UK meat consumption, a genuine 50% reduction in UK food waste from farm to fork through ambitious regulation, and tree planting on the millions of hectares of land that would be spared by these measures, could together mean that UK agriculture could be net carbon negative by 2040 without recourse to BECCS. The AD industry is eager portray agriculture as “difficult to decarbonise” because it actively sidelines these more ambitious alternatives.


*Using 2007 as a baseline year, excluding inedible food waste, using per capita figures which also use a 2007 baseline year.

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Turning surplus produce into vinegar and ferments

11th Feb 20 by Keenan Humble, Development Chef, Alchemic Kitchen

At this time of year there is an abundance of citrus fruit in markets, which means that there is (sadly) a large amount going to waste.

At the Alchemic Kitchen we have spent the first few weeks of 2020 replenishing our stocks of jams, marmalade and chutney after a busy Christmas period sending hampers across the country.

We received an abundance of cranberries, strawberries, apples, blood oranges and limes (all produce that was destined for the bin). With them we have made Berry Crush Jam (cranberry, strawberry & basil), Coco-Loco Marmalade (orange, limes, cardamom & coconut) and Gamekeepers Chutney (cranberry, apple, onion & ginger). As we are suitably re-stocked and ready to do it all again for Valentine’s day, the beginning of February has been all about fermenting and making vinegars from fruit peels and cores.

We currently have jars of apple peels, bruised cranberries and citrus & chilli trimmings fermenting, ticking over, which will develop into the first batches of vinegar of Alchemic Kitchen’s tenure at our base in Stanley Grange. I am planning on using the apple vinegar to make an apple balsamic product that can be used for a sweet onion marmalade, we do not have such clear plans for the other two but I am sure we will find a use for them. It will be handy to have them to pickle vegetables as we get them, lift dishes we prepare for catering events and accent future products. I personally love this as we are reducing the costs of our products, becoming more self-sufficient and really making the produce we rescue stretch as far as possible.

At this time of year there is an abundance of citrus fruit in markets, which means that there is (sadly) a large amount going to waste. Rather than turn all of it into marmalade, we decided that we would use some in savoury pickles and condiments. We are therefore waiting on the results of our salted limes, which will go on to become lime pickle and blood oranges, which are sitting in a salt brine made of their own juice and scotch bonnet chillies.

Once the fruit has served its time in salt brine, it will be cooked with spices like mustard seed, coriander and ground ginger before being jarred and left to mature. We can then pop them open as and when we need them. I plan to use them in cheese toasties at the container (for the other tenants’ lunches, not just mine).


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Environmental and Economic potential of surplus food as pig feed

31st Jul 19 by Christina O'Sullivan

Feedback's Martin Bowman outlines how Europe is getting closer to finding a safe way to safely process surplus food into feed.

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Carina Millstone discusses the problem of food waste on Roundtable

3rd Jun 19 by Carina Millstone, Executive Director

Food waste is not simply a matter wasting money, it takes a huge toll on the environment. Guests discuss this issue on Roundtable.

Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, features with other guests on Roundtable, discussing the real problem of food waste and its impact on the environment.

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Gleaning Photo

The Future of Gleaning

15th Apr 19 by Dan Woolley, Head of Pilot Programmes

Gleaning is an ancient tradition, but what is its future? Dan Woolley reflects on how far it has come, and what's coming next.

Back in 2012 Feedback took a small group of volunteers to a field in Kent to rescue a glut of cabbages and cauliflowers that were not wanted by the supermarkets. From this small seed of an idea blossomed something as bright and beautiful as a field full of brassica: we called it The Gleaning Network.

More than six years since that first gleaning day, we’re immensely proud to look back on all we’ve achieved. But it’s important to also look forward: to consider the role of gleaning in the rapidly changing landscape of food, food waste and farming. So here I want to look at the future of gleaning. I want to share ideas on how gleaning can become a sustainable, replicable and nationwide project; one that serves the interests of communities, farmers and the planet we all share.

But first, here’s a quick recap of what’s happened in the world of gleaning thus far.

Gleaning past and present

For as long as human beings have grown crops, there have been times of surplus; such is the variability of weather. Gleaning – whereby a farmer allows people onto their land to gather leftover crops or grain – seems to have arisen as both a practical and an equitable response to dealing with such instances of surplus. No one knows for sure when and where the practice originated, but we do know it’s referenced in the Old Testament. “Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest… you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger.” (Levictus 9:9-10).

Fast forward to the 21st century, food surpluses still exist – only they no longer occur sporadically, unpredictably, or at small-scale. Instead, overproduction and waste is embedded into our agricultural systems, as a rational response by farmers to the need to guarantee their supply for capricious supermarket buyers.

Yet growing all this food consumes vast quantities of water, energy and fertiliser (as well, of course, as land), while exhausting our soil fertility.

2012: step forward, Olympians

In 2012, as our research was beginning to reveal the sheer scale of waste which can occur on farms, we decided that gleaning was needed once again. While we at Feedback have always maintained that redistribution is not, in itself, a solution to food waste, we knew that the efforts of food redistribution organisations were hindered and frustrated by a lack of access to fresh, nutritious food. It is worth adding that, sadly, redistribution agencies are all too often used by supermarkets and other food businesses as a dumping ground for cheap, poor quality, low nutrition food.

We believed, too, that gleaning had an important role beyond redistribution – one focused on the deeper systemic problems and the longer-term solutions. While food waste was slowly making its way onto the radar of both policymakers and the public, farm-level food waste was almost always absent from the conversation. The Gleaning Network sought to address this in a number of ways. By working with farmers to understand the drivers of food waste and the imbalances of power. By taking large numbers of volunteers to farms to witness first hand the scale of food waste. And by working with the media at every level we have been able to bring evidence and stories into the spotlight.

From small acorns…

The Gleaning Network has now worked with over 60 farmers and 2,000 volunteers to rescue more than 400 tonnes of fruits and vegetables. We’ve been truly inspired by so many of those people. By the volunteers who turn out in rain, sleet and driving winds to spend their day plucking kale and brassica from muddy fields (people of north west England, we salute you!). By those farmers who time and again open their fields to our volunteers, donating their time and support to the cause and their vegetables and fruits to those in need. By the college student who, surrounded by endless rows of food waste, put the situation into beautifully simple words: “food waste is crazy!” You have all been inspirational.

There are still also many people whom we have not worked with. These include the thousands of people who have signed up to our gleaning volunteer list, but who live in parts of the UK where gleaning has yet to take root. They also include the several dozen people who have written to us over the last six years to express interest in setting up a gleaning hub in their region. We’ve always wished we were able to offer more support to all these people. The reality, however, is that it simply hasn’t been possible – until now.

Community-led Gleaning

We know from the conversations we’ve had in the field, that gleaning has often been a focal point around which communities can (re)connect. We believe the time is now right for Feedback to help communities to take the lead:

  • In 2019 we will offer support and training for a number of community groups in England (for groups in Scotland, Wales and N.I., please see below), giving them the knowledge and experience they need to setup and run their own local/regional gleaning project.
  • Here we use the term ‘community group’ in its broadest sense: we are interested to work with groups, organisations, projects and enterprises of all shapes and sizes. The formal/legal structure of your group is at this point less important than your enthusiasm!
  • As part of this project we will create a bespoke gleaning website which will host a range of resources. We envisage that these resources will be made available for use by groups throughout the UK (not only those in England) and potentially beyond.
  • We will also explore ways in which these new gleaning groups can support and share knowledge with one another.

If you are interested to find out more about any of these ideas, or to register an interest in community-led gleaning, we’d love to hear from you. You can fill in the form by clicking here to express your interest.

Thank you – it’s been an amazing journey so far, and we can’t wait for the next chapter.

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Help us reveal the scale of Europe’s farm food waste

28th Mar 19 by Martin Bowman, Pig Idea Policy Officer and Stakeholder Coordinator

Tackling food waste on farms now has a deadline for action. Find out more about the problem of farm food waste and what you can do about it.

We have until the 4th April to stop the EU excluding the millions of tonnes of food wasted on farms from EU measurement and action. Martin Bowman, Feedback campaigner on farm food waste, explores why farms shouldn’t be sidelined – and how you can take action, in particular if you are an EU citizen outside the UK.

How much fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables which could have been eaten lie rotting in fields around the EU, or are ploughed back into the soil? According to Feedback’s research and experience working with farms, the answer can be enormous, yet so far EU governments have resisted steps to measure farm-level waste so it can be properly tackled.

WRAP recently estimated that the UK’s food waste on farms was a whopping 2.5 million tonnes of food, 20% of the food wasted in the country. But the UK, too, needs far better data if it wants to seriously tackle food waste on farms (currently it relies on informed estimates) – and whatever the UK’s future relationship with the EU, progress in Europe usually helps drives change in the UK.

Our hopes were raised last year when the EU agreed sweeping reforms to its waste legislation, with food waste policies introduced for the first time. A huge cross-European campaign called for the EU to create compulsory targets for EU countries to halve their food waste from farm to fork by 2030. Feedback worked with a coalition formed by This Is Rubbish of 67 groups from 18 EU countries and thousands of petition signatories to build momentum for EU action. But member states of the European Council blocked or watered down most of these measures. The Directive that was eventually agreed on was still a big step in the right direction – although it only called on EU countries to voluntarily commit to halve their food waste (and then, only at retail and consumer level), leaving it largely up to member states whether they take ambitious action or not. However, a significant breakthrough was the requirement on EU countries to measure and report their food waste.

Keeping it secret

Generally, whereas we know a lot about plastics and other recycling, food waste, where it occurs and what happens to it, has been shrouded in mystery. Now, from 2020 onwards, EU countries will be required to create robust data on their food waste levels in manufacturing, retail, catering and households sectors, shining a hugely useful light into the current darkness. Finally, we’ll know how much food is actually wasted, where and why.

Yet waste on farms is set to remain shrouded in darkness. The EU have just published their framework for EU countries to measure and report their food waste, and they have excluded in-field food waste. This is a disaster, given estimates put the proportion of EU food waste which occurs on farms at between 11% and 34% – between 10 and 47 million tonnes.

That’s a huge quantity of food – and the emissions, waste and soil fertility which went into producing it – which would be effectively sidelined from international action unless we convince the Commission to change track.

A problem of framing?

Again and again in the international literature on food waste, studies talk as if so-called “food loss” (a technical term for food waste at production level) is firstly only a problem in poorer countries, and secondly a problem which results solely from inadequate infrastructure like cool storage, which has technical solutions. This conveniently obscures that in rich countries there is a comparably large quantity of food waste on farms, and it is largely due to power relations between farmers and their buyers – retailers and middlemen. Feedback’s reports on UK farmers and on international farmers supplying Europe found evidence that farmers were being forced to waste food due to a mixture of cosmetic rejections of food for being the wrong size, shape or colour, unfair practices like last minute order cancellations, and fear of losing contracts in cases of undersupply leading to systemic overproduction and occasional price crashes. We’ve seen first hand through our Gleaning Network the truly stunning quantities of nutritious food that can be simply left in the field.

In short, the risks and costs of food waste are being dumped onto farmers – causing them a massive loss of money, time and resources wasting food they’ve toiled in the fields to grow. This food waste causes a huge loss of edible nutritious food – our UK study estimated that 2-4 million people could be fed their 5 a day of fruit and veg all year from the food wasted on UK farms annually. With estimates that England could run short of water in 25 years, British soil has only 100 harvests left unless degradation is reversed, and with the UN warning we have 12 years to avert disastrous levels of climate change, we need urgent action on food waste to avert catastrophe.

Time for change

Keeping Europe in the dark about farm food waste will harm EU farmers who’ll continue having the costs and risks of food waste dumped on them, prevent edible food getting to people who need it, and harm the environment. We can’t allow that to happen.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Safe Food Advocacy Europe to ask people across Europe to respond to the Commission’s consultation, to urge them not to exclude farms from EU food waste measurement and reporting.

Please take action! (Particularly if you’re an EU resident outside the UK). Click here for our guide to completing the consultation!




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Come Dine Sustainably

4th Jan 19 by Isobella, Feedback volunteer

Keen advocate for ending food waste, Isobella arranged an insightful evening with delicious food made from surplus and salvaged ingredients.

One evening, seven friends gathered in a student flat in growing anticipation of what on earth they would be concocting for their supper. All they knew was that it was a ‘sustainable’ evening of food innovation.

Waste not

The array of potential ingredients were laid out, including excess fruit and veg salvaged from a local greengrocers (by Feedback’s Gleaning Network coordinator Heather), scraps from the fridge and a few dry, cupboard items. Items of interest included pumpkin, plantain & pomegranate…and some suspicious looking surplus wine.

Teams of 2 were formed for starter, main and dessert and the eager cooks competed for ingredients as they plotted what to make. This was a perfect number for us, as it worked in the space and quantities we had. The criteria was to make something delicious, producing as little waste as possible, and minimise food miles. In the end, no one bought any extra ingredients – all the courses were formed from the original stocks, which was amazing!

Let’s get cooking

It was such a fun atmosphere whilst everyone was cooking and crafting their dishes, especially in utilising all components of an item. The starter team were the most creative with presentation, utilising the pineapple as a vessel for their pomegranate chutney and salsa, accompanied by plantain fried in Toast beer – a wonderful product which we all loved, which uses surplus bread to produce a delicious brew.The main course won on taste, with curried cauliflower, veggie fritters and a red lentil dahl, followed by pumpkin pie with banana and beetroot swirl ice cream for dessert – a beautiful harmony of fruit and veg! We created sub-categories under ‘food’ and ‘sustainability’ including taste, texture, quantity of waste and environmental impact to name a few for the recipients to vote on after each course.

More than just eating

Throughout the evening we played games including ‘guess who – the food waste version’, in which we each had a food item stuck to our heads which others had describe what they would do if they had surplus amounts of that item to help them guess. Discussions were also prompted by real life scenarios in which decisions about minimising food waste were chewed over. It was really great to be able to have intentional conversation surrounding food and how we can buy, cook and eat more consciously and sustainably, after we had proven to ourselves how much could be done when you have imagination and intention.

All in all, everyone was really impressed and proud of how inventive they had been, and the joy that it is to share wholesome, home-made food with friends. I firmly believe that seeds were planted that evening, and that each person left feeling inspired, well-nourished and encouraged to cook from scratch and from scraps and better understand the journey their food has taken before it gets to the plate.

I hope this acts as an encouragement for others to host their own, with friends or strangers – you can be the catalyst!

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4th Oct 16 by fb_admin

4th October 2016

gpwdjjmv_400x400Feedback’s Campaign and Research Manager Edd Colbert reflects on recent changes in the UK’s food waste landscape.

It’s been a busy few weeks for food waste in the UK, with the publication of The Evening Standard’s investigation into supermarket waste; Sainsbury’s publishing some of its food waste data; a wealth of organisations calling on the UK Government for action on waste; and a new group of companies signing up to the Courtauld Commitment. Yet what really shocked me was the fanfare of news articles celebrating what has been dubbed ‘The UK’s First Food Waste Supermarket’.

This ‘food waste supermarket’ is the latest project of The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP). TRJFP started out as a pay-as-you-feel café serving food that would have gone to waste in Armley, Leeds. I first met Adam Smith, the project’s founder, in 2014 shortly before becoming a co-director of the project. Since leaving the project, it has grown from strength to strength and now represents an international network of anti-food waste projects.

One such project is the brilliant Fuel for Schools program in Leeds, which uses surplus food to feed hundreds of school children breakfast to combat food poverty and malnutrition. The ‘food waste supermarket’ is a warehouse in which food is stored for effective distribution; and in true TRJFP fashion, it has been opened up to be accessed by all to make sure those living in food poverty are not marginalised. Everyone is welcome to do their weekly shop and are encouraged to pay as they feel, whether that is financially or in kind. Yet as Adam told me on the phone recently, “this isn’t a supermarket, this is explicitly anti-supermarket”.

Even if we can call this warehouse a supermarket, doesn’t it seem strange that the UK’s media headlines are celebrating the fact that the UK wastes enough food to fill a supermarket?

What the UK really needs right now is its first Zero Waste Supermarket.

A zero food waste supermarket publicly measures and reports how much food it wastes in its store and distribution centre operations, as well as throughout its supply chain.

A zero food waste supermarket prioritises prevention of waste throughout its operations and supply chain. It commits to reducing food waste on farms and other stages of its supply chain, for example through the relaxation of strict cosmetic specifications that judge food on what it looks like, rather than its taste or nutritional value.

A zero food waste supermarket understands that food waste is a symptom of overproduction. It works to create fair contractual relationships with its suppliers to prevent overproduction as a result of suppliers trying to insure themselves against last minute order cancellations and unpredictable order forecasting.

A zero food waste supermarket recognises that redistribution is a short-term measure to ensure all food that is grown is eaten by people, but that ultimately it is responsible for minimising how much ‘surplus’ food it encourages to be grown, harvested, packaged, transported and sold.

A zero food waste supermarket only sends truly unavoidable food waste to management processes such as anaerobic digestion.

A zero food waste supermarket would present a challenge to all retailers to take greater action to prevent food waste and would be truly worthy of newspaper headlines.

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Evening Standard Publishes Food Waste Investigation

19th Sep 16 by fb_admin


Supermarkets are under pressure to accelerate action to prevent good food going to waste as the Evening Standard launches a major investigation into food waste this week.

Sainsbury’s is the second British supermarket to publish data on the amount of food it wastes in its stores, reporting to waste 35,832 tonnes per year. Last year Tesco published its in-store data after years of campaigning pressure from Feedback, and recently CEO David Lewis called on other retailers to follow their lead.

Feedback expose food waste in supermarket bins with the Evening Standard.
Feedback expose food waste in supermarket bins with the Evening Standard.

Feedback are pleased to see that Sainsbury’s has published its food waste data for the first time today but there’s still much work to be done. Firstly, Sainsbury’s have only published data on the amount of food waste generated in their stores. Whilst this is an important first step for retailers to manage and reduce their food waste, it does not include the much more significant amount of food waste generated in the retailer’s supply chain caused by cosmetic specifications, last minute order cancellations and unpredictable forecasting. Secondly,Sainsbury’s food waste data has not been audited by a third party, unlike its rival Tesco, putting the validity of this data in question.

Edd Colbert, Campaign and Research Manager at Feedback, says “Supermarkets are beginning to feel the pressure of the global food waste movement and have no option but to change their behaviour. The first dominos have fallen with Tesco and Sainsbury’s announcements and over the next year Feedback will be monitoring each of the supermarkets closely to ensure they go beyond ambitious gestures and commit to effective long term actions to prevent food waste.”

Feedback are calling on all UK supermarkets to come clean and publicly report on how much food they waste in their operations and throughout their supply chains. These businesses already have much of this data available as they collectively report on food waste through the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary industry initiative. This was confirmed today by an anonymous employee from one of big six in the Evening Standard:

“The truth is that every store of every retailer measures their food waste very, very accurately because metrics drives our business. If they tell you otherwise they are being less than honest.”

The Standard’s investigation has largely focused on the amount of surplus food redistributed by each of the major retailers. Sainsbury’s is reported to lead the way with 7.6% of its surplus food actually being redistributed at present whilst Tesco comes second with 4.5%. The rest of the retailers fall even shorter with scores of 3.3% or less. Morrison’s and Lidl have not disclosed any information on how much food they redistribute. This is of particular concern, as Morrison’s declared almost a year ago that it planned to redistribute all of its surplus food after Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s BBC series Hugh’s War On Waste.

Whilst a great deal of attention is being given to redistribution initiatives, it is important to highlight that the amount of food waste generated within supermarket stores is miniscule compared to that which arises in the supply chain. If supermarkets are really serious about putting an end to waste they have to start taking responsibility for the waste they cause upstream by relaxing unnecessary cosmetic specifications, improving forecast accuracy, and putting an end to unfair trading practices.

Have you read the Evening Standard’s food waste story? Do you want to join the movement and help stop good food going to waste? Then sign the food waste pledge here to find how you can get involved.

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Feedback call on UK Government to take action against food waste

19th Sep 16 by fb_admin

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[1], 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.

[1] 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.

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Brexit Government urged to take control of food, farming and fisheries for public good

14th Jul 16 by fb_admin

Feedback have signed a letter alongside 83 other organisations to David Davis and Theresa May to stress the important implications of Brexit on food and farming.

Read the letter here.

With many of the UK’s food and farming policies and subsidies being defined at EU level, the UK government now has an opportunity to reshape these to ensure that taxpayers money is spent for public good.

Organisations representing the health and long-term interests of millions of British citizens have called on government to adopt common-sense food, farming and fishing policies that are good for jobs, health and the environment, when they plan for the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Concerns are expressed in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May and David Davis MP, the Minister appointed to oversee a new Unit advising the Government and PM on the post EU Referendum strategy. The letter, co-signed by over 80 food, farming, fair trade, poverty, animal welfare, wildlife and environmental organisations, argues that good food, farming and fishing policies must be central to any post EU Referendum strategy for the UK.

The organisations point out that better food, farming and trade policies can help to cut greenhouse gas emissions from farming and food industries by 80% by 2050, and promote healthier diets to combat heart disease, cancers, diabetes and obesity, saving the NHS, and ultimately taxpayers millions. Such policies can also support a vibrant and diverse economy, supporting good jobs and working conditions, in the UK and overseas. Further, the UK could prioritise ethical and sustainable production methods, improved animal welfare, more farmland and marine wildlife, a healthy future for bees and other pollinators, as well as enhancing the beauty of the countryside and protecting the environment, whilst also providing a safe and traceable food supply.

Kath Dalmeny, head of Sustain, an alliance of food and farming organisations,  who coordinated the letter, said: “The British public has given no mandate for a reduction in food and farming standards, a weakening of protection for nature, nor a reversal of the UK’s commitment to lifting millions of the poorest people in the world out of poverty through trade. We are seriously concerned that such vital considerations may be over-run by a drive for new trade deals at any cost.”

The full letter can be read online here.

Organisations that have signed the letter include:

Action on Sugar, Agricultural Christian Fellowship, Alexandra Rose Charity, All Party Parliamentary Group: Agroecology, All Party Parliamentary Group: School Food, Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, Baby Milk Action, Banana Link, Belfast Food Network, Beyond GM, Biodynamic Association, Blood Pressure UK, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Concern Universal, Consensus Action on Salt and Health, Compassion in World Farming, Eating Better Alliance, Econexus, Environmentalists for Europe, Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), Royal College of Surgeons, Faculty of Public Health, Fairtrade Foundation, Family Farmers’ Association, Federation of City Farms &Community Gardens, Feedback, First Steps Nutrition Trust, Food Ethics Council, Food Foundation, Food Matters, Food Research Collaboration, City University, Food Systems Academy, Forum for the Future, Friends of the Earth , Fun Kitchen, Future Sustainability, Garden Organic, Global Justice Now, GM Freeze, Greenpeace, Green Party of England and Wales, Harper Adams University (Food Science & Agri-Food Supply Chain Management), Health Equalities Group, Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour, Institute of Health Promotion and Education, International Pole & Line Foundation, Keep Britain Tidy, Landworkers Alliance, London Food Board, Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE), New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association , Magic Breakfast, Marine Conservation Society (MCS), National Obesity Forum, New Economics Foundation, Nourish Scotland, Organic Growers Alliance, Organic Research Centre, Organic Trade Board, Pasture Fed Livestock Association, Pesticides Action Network UK, Real Farming Trust, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, School of Artisan Food, School Food Matters, Schumacher College at Dartington Hall Trust, Scottish Cancer Prevention Network, Scottish Crofting Federation, Send a Cow, Soil Association, Soil Association Scotland, Sole of Discretion, Slow Food in the UK, Sugarwise, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming, Sustainable Food Cities Network, Sustainable Food Trust, Traidcraft, UK Food Group, UK Health Forum, Unite the Union, UNISON, University of Cardiff, Geography & Planning & Development, War on Want, Wildlife Trusts.

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European Parliament calls for action to tackle unfair trading practices

8th Jun 16 by fb_admin

More protection for farmers urged as EU resolution calls for legislation to cut down on abuse of power within the food supply chain



Yesterday morning, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sent a clear message to the EU Commission to take immediate action and enact  EU-wide legislation that protects farmers and food suppliers who are  mistreated by supermarkets’ unfair trading practices (“UTPs”).

The resolution (approved by 600 votes to 48) calls on the Commission to establish a network of enforcement authorities to address power imbalances in the food supply chain that generate increased risk and uncertainty for suppliers and can lead to overproduction and food waste.


Europe’s food supply chain suffers from endemic and persistent problems from UTPs, with suppliers subjected to a range of issues including delayed payments, sudden and unjustified order cancellations, forced involvement in promotions and imposed charges for fictitious services.



Feedback’s research in Kenya has shown how farmers who export their produce to Europe are forced into cycles of debt when orders are cancelled at the last minute or supply agreements are changed retrospectively. Farmers are often left with no market to sell their food to meaning they are not paid and end up wasting perfectly good produce.


The resolution comes after the Commission published a disappointing report earlier this year favouring voluntary agreements to prevent UTPs over legislative measures. In its report the Commission stated that the industry-led Supply Chain Initiative (SCI) was a sufficient measure to prevent UTPs.


The European Parliament have also criticised the Commission’s preference for the SCI, with MEPs agreeing that the voluntary initiative “cannot be used as an effective tool to combat UTPs” given that it lacks financial penalties and mechanisms to allow for confidential complaints to be made by suppliers. This issue is compounded by the fact that Tesco, despite being a member of the SCI, was recently found guilty by the UK’s Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) of using unfair trading practices against suppliers and producers in an attempt to overstake its profit margins.


Suppliers currently operate in a ‘climate of fear’, too scared to speak out about against unfair trading practices, and require anonymous complaint systems such as the UK’s GCA in order to speak freely. However, the GCA currently only regulates the relationship between retailers and their direct suppliers, meaning that many suppliers are left without protection. The European Parliament recommend that the GCA should be used as a model enforcer against UTPs, but goes further by recognising that UTPs can occur across the supply chain irrespective of geographical location.


Voluntary initiatives such as the SCI and the Supermarkets Code of Practice that preceded the GCA are structurally unsuitable for preventing unfair trading practices. Legislation is necessary to effectively deter retailers from using these practices and to effectively change the behaviour or purchasers within these companies. There is clear public support for this, as a petition started by Feedback calling on national leaders to establish authorities to investigate supermarkets’ unfair treatment of suppliers received over one million signatures last year.


“Unfair trading practices exist because they are profitable in the short-term for retailers, yet in the long run they threaten the sustainability of our food system by placing additional pressures on increasingly squeezed suppliers,” said Edd Colbert, Campaign and Research Manager for Feedback, “the call for EU-wide protection against unfair trading practices is a significant step forward in the fight against food waste and Feedback join the European Parliament in demanding that the Commission takes action urgently”


Feedback have been working with allies in the European food movement to make sure unfair trading practices are recognised as a major contributor to food waste in the supply chain. As an organisation we have engaged with key policy makers in the Commission and Parliament to put this issue on their agenda to create a fairer food system for all. Read more about Feedback’s Stop Dumping campaign that aims to stop unfair trading practices that lead to good food being wasted here.

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Supermarkets could soon be fined for unfair trading practises

24th Feb 15 by fb_admin

A recent proposal made by the UK government will soon give the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) the power to fine supermarkets up to 1% of their annual turnover for breach of the Groceries Supply Code of Practise.

Feedback welcomes this long-awaited decision that will give the GCA the ability to effectively challenge supermarkets on unethical business practices, such as uncompensated forecast order cancellations. However, having launched an investigation into Tesco this month, prior to her fining powers being granted, the GCA will be unable to fine the supermarket for any breaches of the code. It is of paramount importance that the GCA is given her fining powers prior to further investigations to ensure supermarkets feel the full force of this office’s powers.

The Groceries Code has the potential to be an effective legislative tool to curb systemic food waste in supermarket supply chains. The code directly addresses the issue of order cancellations, a significant cause of farm-level food waste. WRAP estimate that 5% of farm-level waste is caused by supply chain management issues such as order cancellations, although this figure is thought to be underestimated given the hesitance of farmers to speak out of these problems for fear of being de-listed, despite the large financial loss associated with being forced to waste their produce.

Apples saved on a farm from going to waste by The Gleaning Network
Apples saved on a farm from going to waste by The Gleaning Network

However, the GCA currently lacks an essential tool needed to ensure a fair deal for many farmers and other indirect suppliers – namely the remit to adjudicate on issues that arise between indirect suppliers and the supermarkets. At present the GCA is restricted to adjudicating only those issues that arise between retailers and their direct suppliers. Only a small number of farmers directly supply supermarkets.

Forecast order cancellations and last minute order adjustments leave farmers with excessive quantities of food that they can’t sell. Instead the food is left to rot or is ploughed back into the field. This is a global problem that affects farmers across the world and is an issue that Feedback are uncovering through its research and campaigns, as well as through the activity of The Gleaning Network.

Feedback are calling for the remit of the GCA and the code to be reviewed and extended to protect primary producers and other indirect suppliers of the UK’s major grocery retailers.

Feedback is not alone in this demand. The National Farmers Union (NFU) and the House of Commons Environmental Farming and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) amongst other are calling for a review of the operations of the GCA. A review is currently scheduled for 2016 but there is a need for urgent consideration of extending the remit of the GCA to include indirect suppliers, both in the UK and abroad.



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