It is election season in the UK, but that didn’t stop a UK Commons committee from injecting into the national discussion a proposal for strong actions to prevent food waste. Many recommendations are similar to those of the National Zero Waste Council’s National Food Waste Reduction Strategy for Canada, and so invite a comparison.
The Council is looking for feedback on its food waste strategy, so a quick review of the UK situation could provide useful context.
In its new report, Food Waste in England, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee estimated that 10 million tonnes of food and drink are wasted in the UK each year. They found that about 60% of the waste could be avoided, and would address serious economic, environmental and social implications and impacts.
Economically, they point out that food waste has a cost to households and causes increased disposal costs to local governments. The environmental impact is significant, both from the impact of producing food which is not used, and the methane emissions from food disposed in landfills. And, food waste raises social questions when many people face food shortages.
Over the last decade, initiatives in the UK have already led to a reduction in the annual generation of food waste by 1.6 million tonnes. However, despite these successes, the report states there is much more that needs to be done.
Some of the areas in common include:
- Setting a national food waste target;
- Providing sufficient funding for public food waste reduction programs, such as the UK’s Love Food Hate Waste;
- Reviewing food date labelling, including whether there is a need for “best before” dates;
- Encouraging food retailers to double their donations of surplus food to charities through the benefit of tax incentives;
- Maintaining local control of waste management, but building a national strategy through harmonization and sharing of best practices; and
- Coordinating with local authorities to increase the separate collection of food waste from garbage in homes and businesses.
The report was the result of a ten-month inquiry involving written and oral submissions, public meetings and on-the-ground investigations. While the UK context for waste prevention is somewhat different from the Canadian one – ahead in some areas but behind in others – the challenges and solutions are similar.
The report provides a wide array of recommendations, many of which are similar to the elements of the Council’s food waste reduction strategy.