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Food Waste: One Year On

Today (24th April) marks International Stop Food Waste Day, a campaign which calls for us all to become food waste warriors and raise awareness of the global food waste crisis. It’s no surprise that there is now a dedicated day aimed at educating and igniting change regarding the global food waste epidemic.

The topic of food waste has been discussed and debated endlessly in the media over recent years. Whilst we all know that we should be trying to limit our food wastage by freezing leftovers, measuring our portions, considering what we buy and when, and understanding the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ to prevent throwing away tonnes of edible food every year, many of us admit to contributing to the growing problem.

According to WRAP’s (Circular & Resource Efficiency Experts) research, compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), it is estimated that approximately one-third of all food produced in the world is lost to waste. This equates to a staggering £20 billion worth of food waste in the UK annually and an average of £810 worth of food being thrown away by the average UK family per year.

Wasting food is not only bad for the environment including the climate, but it’s also having a negative impact on our finances. Equally, hungry mouths are a stark example of the cost of food waste with the FAO estimating that 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to afford a meal, despite the UK wasting billions through food waste every year.

Last year, we addressed the topic of the food waste epidemic at our Lucre round table event (as part of our Insight and Ideas hub, which ensures as an agency we are always abreast of the latest trends and consumer behaviour), by celebrating the Innovative Waste Warriors who are making a difference in the war on waste. There are some real super-heroes who are helping to redress the balance and ensuring that unwanted food is put to good use. As well as championing the people, businesses and charities using leftover food to connect and empower, we also hoped to inspire businesses to look at the way they produce food and what they could do differently.

Fast forward a year from our round table event and we wanted to see what approach had been taken more recently to address the growing issue. The UK’s Government’s approach has been supporting the efforts of individual local organisations through a £500,000 Food Waste Reduction Fund. In an effort to reduce food waste, there have also been schemes such as the Courtaould2025 initiative and ‘LoveFoodHateWaste’ led by WRAP. To accelerate work to achieving the targets set out by Courtaould2025, the IGD (the global food and grocery experts) and WRAP have laid out milestones in a Food Waste Reduction Roadmap.

Despite the targets being ambitious, the UK’s largest retailers, food producers, manufacturers, and hospitality and food service companies have signed up to the roadmap in a bid to halve food waste by 2030 and help to drive down the UK’s annual food waste bill.

This year we will also see the introduction of a £15 million pilot scheme come into play to help reduce waste after Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced that the Government has taken steps to improve their food waste policy. Furthermore, the Government has published its new Clean Growth Strategy, detailing its plan for a low-carbon future for the UK and outlining a target to ban food in all landfills by 2020.

Despite there being some initiatives implemented since our event last year, there is no doubt that huge challenges remain when it comes to food waste concerns and that more schemes need to be put in place to address the epidemic.