A bill obliging retailers and suppliers to limit the amount of food waste in the supply chain would likely be applied on a voluntary basis, recycling minister Rory Stewart has indicated.
The Food Waste (Reduction) Bill is due to be introduced in the House of Commons by Bristol West MP Kerry McCarthy today (September 9).
The Labour MP’s Bill would obligate UK supermarkets to donate unsold food where redistribution charities are willing to form partnerships, while also publishing their food waste arisings.
It follows similar legislative proposals in Belgium and France, inspired by a wave of popular support, and the European Commission’s resolution recommending the law be extended across Europe.
In a 10-minute motion following Prime Minister’s Questions later, Ms McCarthy will lay out the main policies of the Bill, requiring large supermarkets, manufacturers and distributors to reduce food waste ‘by no less than 30% by 2025’.
The Bill will also require all parts of the supply chain to enter into formal agreements with food redistribution organisations. Ms McCarthy argues that the UK redistributes just ‘2%’ of its fit for purpose surplus food, in comparison to France which redistributes ’20 times that volume’.
Speaking at the launch of the Bill in Westminster yesterday, Mr Stewart showed his support for the idea – but indicated its aims could be achieved merely through the ‘threat’ of compulsory action.
He said: “I suspect there will be discussions about how much of this is mandatory or voluntary but it’s a very useful tension. One of the reasons we have made so much progress is the threat of legislative action.
“It’s a tragedy to waste food but much more important than that we have a growing population on a relatively small planet. Unless we address this issue we are going to find ourselves in very serious trouble.”
All Party Group
Ms McCarthy, who is also using the opportunity to set up an All Party Group on food waste, told letsrecycle.com that the details of the Bill would not take shape until it receives a second reading.
But speaking at the event, she argued that voluntary obligations can only go so far towards tackling food waste in the supply chain.
She said: “I think when the 2012 bill was introduced there was voluntary action by some of the supermarkets. A good reason to start up the All Party Group is we can go a lot faster if we have the government in the driving seat to push things forward.”
Ms McCarthy added she expected the bill to be well received in Parliament later today, but added there may be some dissenting voices to her cause.
Commenting on the Bill, the British Retail Consortium argued that the bill ‘distracts’ from the bigger targets of food waste reduction – adding that government intervention is ‘unnecessary’.
A BRC spokesman said: “The number one priority for every British supermarket is to keep food surplus and food waste to an absolute minimum, even though retail accounts for just 1% of the 15 million tonnes of food waste thrown away in the UK every year. This makes both environmental and business sense.
“However, where supermarkets do have useable excess stock they work closely with food re-distribution charities across the UK such as FareShare and Community Shop, to ensure as much of that food as possible goes to the people who are most in need of it. All of this positive collaboration takes place on a purely voluntary basis.”