A government-backed campaign will ‘name and shame’ businesses failing to address food waste and draw wider attention to the issue, Ben Elliot, the government’s ‘food waste champion’ has revealed.
Speaking at a panel debate in Westminster last week, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Food Waste and the APPG on Sustainable Resources, Mr Elliot outlined some of the work he has done in the role since having been appointed by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove in January.
And, he revealed that the government is planning an awareness week around the issue of food waste, which he dubbed the ‘Food Waste Conversation’, expected to take place in November.
Mr Elliot, who is the co-founder of lifestyle group Quintessentially, said he has worked closely with retailers, food manufacturers and hospitality businesses on the ‘Step up to the Plate’ pledge, with a voluntary commitment to halve food waste by 2030. The Commitment was launched at an event at the V&A Museum in London last month (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, he added that the government has around 51 organisations ‘in its crosshairs’ which have yet to sign the pledge to halve food waste or have not taken adequate steps to address the issue.
“Most of the conversations now, people are pretty enthusiastic,” Mr Elliot said, discussing the commitment, adding: “They are scared. They are scared because the government might legislate and they scared that their own individual customers are saying enough is enough.”
He added: “We need a grown-up conversation about this or nothing is going to happen. In November Defra is launching, in consultation with WRAP, a food waste week, we are calling it the Food Waste Conversation.
“We are going to name and shame those organisations that are doing a good job and doing a bad job.”
Mr Elliot said that a part of his job is to be a “real irritant to some of those retailers, manufacturers and hospitality sector businesses.”
“I spend most of my time meeting them and saying ‘come on I’ve got to hold you to account’,” he said.
“If, by November we haven’t explained to citizens what we are trying to do, we are making a huge mistake.”
Joining Mr Elliot on the panel was Richard Walker, the managing director of the food retailer Iceland, who said that consistency from councils around the collection of food waste, as well as ‘industrial composting at scale’, which he said he hoped would be delivered through Defra’s Resources and Waste Strategy.
He added that while there is “room for naming and shaming” businesses that have performed poorly this must take into account research the ‘reality’ of managing food waste within different sized businesses. He also advocated the role that frozen food has to play in reducing food waste.
Also speaking at Wednesday’s event was Cllr Adele Morris, the Local Government Association’s deputy chair on environment, who commented that funding has been a barrier to many councils adopting food waste collections to date.
*Story updated 21/06/2019 to reflect that the event was co-hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Food Waste and the APPG on Sustainable Resources