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Change in law needed to tackle 'scandalous' level of food waste

Change in law needed to tackle 'scandalous' level of food waste
3 min read

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy calls for urgent action to tackle high levels of food waste ahead of the introduction of her Food Waste Reduction Ten Minute Rule Bill to Parliament next week  

The current level of waste in our food system is scandalous. Between 30-50% of all food grown globally is wasted, putting pressure on scarce land and resources, contributing to deforestation and needlessly adding to global greenhouse gas emissions. If the amount of food wasted around the world were reduced by just 25%, there would be enough to feed everyone on this planet.

The next few months presents one of the greatest opportunities in the UK, EU and internationally to push for policies capable of meeting the challenge facing us. The European Commission is aiming to present a new, ambitious circular economy strategy later this year. The UN has recently agreed a target of halving food waste by 2030, for adoption as part of the sustainable development agenda in New York this month. And the UK Government is currently consulting on voluntary targets for reducing food waste for 2016-2025.

On Wednesday 9th September, I will be introducing my Food Waste (Reduction) Ten-Minute Rule Bill in the Commons. This Bill is supported by Feedback and ‘This is Rubbish’, FareShare, WWF-UK, Friends of the Earth and Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.

So far, Government policies have primarily focused on household food waste, largely failing to tackle the waste generated by the food industry up (and indeed down) its supply chain – from farms (from cosmetic requirements for food free from visual imperfections, to forecasting errors) to food processing factories.

There is more food wasted by the food industry across supply chains than by consumers. The current voluntary lever for encouraging food businesses to reduce their waste—the Courtauld agreement— set a very low target until Dec 2015, which simply isn’t ambitious enough to drive the level of reduction needed.

My Bill would:

  • Oblige supermarkets to donate unsold food – along the lines of recent Belgium and French legislative proposals, which was inspired by a wave of popular support for new laws to end the scandal of supermarket food waste. Although the French laws were recently revoked (hopefully temporarily) for legislative procedural reasons – they ignited petitions for similar laws in the UK, and the EC also passed a resolution recommending for this law to be extended across Europe.

  • Require large supermarkets and manufacturers to publish and transparently report their food waste across the supply chain.

  • Set ambitious food waste targets, equal to the challenge of meeting EU & UN targets on food waste reduction.

  • Require the Government to review its current system of fiscal measures which perversely makes it cheaper to dispose of food nearing its use-by date for anaerobic-digestion, rather than providing it for redistribution – and to implement incentives (or disincentives) to enforce the food waste hierarchy.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is highly regarded in the EU and internationally for its expertise in food waste reduction. There is a huge opportunity here for the Government to harness the UK’s potential leadership role on this issue, by setting out concrete measures it will take to meet the global food waste challenge.

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