UK food waste "unacceptably high", MPs say

21st January 2015

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  • Pollution & Waste Management


Gary Wilson

The amount of food waste in the UK is "unacceptable economically, socially and environmentally ", a cross-party group of MPs said today.

A new report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee finds that, although food waste has been reduced in recent years, it is still significant. Committee chair Anne McIntosh MP said that charities and supermarkets were doing commendable work on redistributing surplus food.

"But the amount redistributed is pitifully small compared to the amount of good food that currently goes to waste. Nine million tonnes of avoidable food waste goes into bins each year, yet a considerable proportion is fit for consumption when it is discarded: this level of waste is unacceptable economically, socially and environmentally.

The committee's report on food security, demand, consumption recommends that the government set up a taskforce to coordinate work by charities, councils, retailers and food producers and manufacturers, and to establish an effective national redistribution network.

Some 15 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, of which nine million tonnes is "avoidable" or could have been eaten, according to evidence given to the committee by waste body Wrap. Half of the UK's food waste occurs in the home, with some 22% of fresh produce bought by householders not eaten, it said.

The committee commended Wrap for its food waste reduction programmes, which the body claims have achieved a 21% drop in avoidable food waste since 2007. MPs called on the government to provide Wrap with sufficient public funding so that it has the resources to maintain momentum in such programmes.

"This makes good economic sense even in times of financial constraint, since progammes to reduce food waste deliver both public and private benefits beyond their costs," the report states.

Following the last spending review, Defra cut Wrap's funding by 60% to £15.5 million for 2015/16.

Earlier this week, the British Retail Consortium claimed that very little food waste comes from supermarkets and their depots. Its figures, using data from seven major supermarkets and independently collated by Wrap, show that 1.3% of all food waste came from the grocery retail industry in 2013.


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