Climate Action

UK plans to ban food waste

The UK government is currently considering legislation to stop the food waste crisis in Britain.

  • 26 September 2016
  • William Brittlebank

The UK government is currently considering legislation to stop the food waste crisis in Britain.

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee have launched an inquiry into the introduction of food waste laws following research which showed that eight million tonnes of food is wasted post-manufacture in the UK.

The research also showed that 60 per cent of this waste could be avoided – equivalent to £16 billion in food per year.

Industry members, including farmers and consumers, have called for the government to take action.

Farmers have called for better retail standards to stop supermarkets from cancelling or changing orders without warning and leaving farmers with surplus produce, and have proposed an alignment of promotional campaigns with production.

Government subsidies currently make it cheaper for businesses to turn food into energy or fertiliser than to keep it in a state where it can be donated to the hungry.

Food charities say no similar subsidies exist to make sure food waste gets to the needy at a time when more and more people are turning to food banks.

Linda Boswell, CEO of Fareshare, said: "By not supporting the redistribution of surplus food alongside anaerobic digestion, the Government has come up with the classic law of unintended consequence: we are sending food to be used as energy when people are going hungry, which is barking mad."

Organisations such as The Real Junk Food Project have started to take action by collecting food intended for landfills and distributing it to ‘pay as you feel’ supermarkets and schools.

Rachael Maskell MP, the shadow environment secretary, has said that where voluntary measures don't work, legislation should be introduced to combat the issue: "We need to do everything we can. It should be mandatory. If voluntary codes don’t cut it, let’s move forward."

The UK is currently trailing behind its European neighbours in this area – France, Italy and Denmark have all introduced legislation and worked to reduce food waste in recent years.