This article titled “Food waste: national campaign aims to stop the rot by 2020” was written by Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 11th November 2013 00.07 UTC
Food producers, retailers, restaurants and consumers are being urged to join forces to secure a ban on all food waste going into landfill by 2020, in a bold national campaign.
Compulsory collections of food waste from all homes and businesses by local councils are among a series of measures recommended in a new report to enable food waste to be harnessed as a valuable resource to provide energy, heat and benefits for agriculture.
The ambition is to save the UK economy over £17bn a year through the reduction of food wasted by households, businesses and the public sector, preventing 27m tonnes of greenhouse gases a year from entering into the atmosphere.
The new study, Vision 2020: UK Roadmap to Zero Food Waste to Landfill is the culmination of more than two years’ work and has the backing and input of local authority and industry experts. It sets the framework for a food waste-free UK by 2020.
Last week official figures revealed the average UK family was wasting nearly £60 a month by throwing away almost an entire meal a day. A report from the government’s waste advisory group Wrap showed Britons were chucking out the equivalent of 24 meals a month, adding up to 4.2m tonnes of food and drink every year that could have been consumed. Almost half of this is going straight from fridges or cupboards into the bin, Wrap found. One-fifth of what households buy ends up as waste, and around 60% of that could have been eaten.
At the same time the UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, recently agreed to reduce its multi-buy items and other promotions after revealing that 35% of its bagged salad was being thrown out. It also found that 40% of apples were wasted, and just under half of bakery items.
The report highlights where and why food waste is happening at each stage of the UK supply chain; what actions are being taken to tackle food waste in each sector and what more can be done in the future to drive the positive environmental, economic and social outcomes.
The campaign is led by food waste recycling company ReFood – in collaboration with BioRegional, a sustainable business charity – as part of the Vision 2020 campaign supported by national and local government as well as industry. The Vision 2020 panel is headed by Lord Deben, the Conservative former environment secretary John Gummer.
Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, said: “Our message is clear; food waste is a valuable resource that should never end up in landfill sites. Everyone from the food producer, through to the retailer, the restaurant and the householder can play their part in ensuring that we take full advantage of its considerable potential by ensuring we re-use, recycle and recover every nutrient and kilowatt of energy it has to offer.”
The report calls for better collaboration at every stage of the supply chain to accelerate the adoption of best practice, improve waste prevention and maximise the value of food waste as a resource. A clear timetable for the phased introduction of a ban on food waste to landfill to come into force by 2020 would allow the industry the time to finance and develop an optimum collection and processing infrastructure, it says.
Compulsory food collections by local authorities are key to the new campaign – currently only 40% of councils have separate food waste collections, while Birmingham – the UK’s largest authority – still relies on black bag collections of mixed waste. The Local Government Authority, which was involved in the report, says if “food contamination” of recycling was halved by 2020, it would save £1bn. The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now consulting on banning food into landfill, but not England.
Re-using food waste through processes such as anaerobic digestion could return over 1.3m tonnes a year of valuable nutrients to the soil, the report says, or generate over 1 terrawatt-hour (Twh) electricity a year, enough to power over 600,000 homes.
Sue Riddlestone, chief executive and co-founder of BioRegional said: “Achieving zero food waste to landfill within the next seven years is a big challenge and we will need the support and actions of individuals, businesses and the government if this vision is to be realised. However, the case for change is compelling. We will save billions of pounds. We will prevent millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere. And crucially, we will ensure that food is treated as a precious resource.”
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