23 January 2020 by James Langley

Climate Committee urges action on food waste

There needs to be “universal separate food waste collection” to deliver the government’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050, according to a report published today, 23 January, by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

Chaired by former environment minister Lord Deben, the CCC emphasises the significance of food waste in the sensible use of land in the UK.

The front cover of today’s CCC report

Titled Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK, the report assesses the way land is used today and the changes required in farming practices.

It states: “To address the 13.6 million tonnes of food that is wasted each year in the UK, government should implement steps to reduce food waste from the farm to the householder.

“This should include immediate low-cost measures (e.g. target setting in the public and private sectors); measures to ‘nudge’ consumers towards best practice and mandatory separate food waste collection.”

Emphasising the significance of reducing food waste across the supply chain, the report focuses on introducing collections and implementing a shift in diet amongst the UK population.

Reduction

The report claims reducing consumption of the most carbon-intensive foods – for example, beef, lamb and dairy – by at least 20% per person and reducing food waste by 20% would save 7 MtCO2e of on-farm emissions by 2050.

The CCC is chaired by John Selwyn Gummer, Baron Deben, the former environment minister

It reads: “Reducing food waste across the supply chain reduces agriculture GHG emissions and allows agricultural land to be freed up for other uses.

“It could also deliver cost savings in waste collection and across the food supply chain, and reduce landfill emissions.

“Fruit, vegetables, salads and drink accounted for almost 40% of the avoidable waste by weight.

“Reductions of these products results in a small impact on UK land area, given that most of the fruit consumed in the UK is imported, and that horticultural production accounts for only 3% of UK cropland area.”

Immediate low-cost measures are called for, including target setting in the public and private sectors to ‘nudge’ consumers towards best practice and mandatory separate food waste collection to reduce food waste.

In a previous report, titled Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming and published in May 2019, the CCC had already called for a ban on all biodegradable waste sent to landfill by 2025 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Collection

Circularising the economy to use waste to produce goods which substitute for raw materials is emphasised as a key policy within today’s report.

The report claims 13.6 million tonnes of food is wasted each year in the UK

Recommendations from Defra to introduce low-cost measures to reduce current levels of food waste from 2020 and separate collection of waste across the UK by 2023 are championed.

These low-cost measures include encouraging reduced portion size, effective date labels and standard setting in public and private sector hospitality.

The report reads: “Action on food waste should build on measures and commitments that have been shown to work in the UK and internationally.

“Government should also introduce mandatory separation of food waste for collection by 2023 so that food that is wasted can be used in other processes.”

Charge

While the report emphasises that government has a role in promoting waste avoidance more proactively and through education, it also places the onus of reducing food waste on consumers.

Measures to promote food waste reduction amongst consumers even include charging for recycling.

The report reads: “Consumers can be enabled to reduce waste through effective product date labelling; guidance on cooking, planning and storage; and having separate food waste collection.

“Financial measures could also play a role e.g. charge households for recycling depending on the quantity of food waste.”

The full report can be read here.

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