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Regulation needed in the right places

Corin Williams

A story covered by MRW online on Sainsbury’s dropping a food waste campaign may not have been the most widely read, but it nicely illustrates a number of current themes.

The supermarket’s £10m ’Waste Less Save More’ campaign was launched in 2015 after a survey suggested food waste was the number one priority for its customers. Back then, headlines on the astonishing amount of food thrown away each year dominated newspapers in the same way plastics waste does now.

Wind on three years, and Sainsbury’s efforts only resulted in single-digit reductions in food waste during a pilot scheme and the whole thing was scrapped. Apparently, customers’ priorities had “changed and broadened”.

WRAP, which has launched a voluntary Plastics Pact, should take note. The public’s attention can be fickle, and businesses’ voluntary action can have severe limitations. WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment for food, textiles and electronic equipment came under fire for lacking teeth, we will have to wait and see how the new initiative fares.

The debate over how much regulation industry should or should not be subjected to has been carrying on for decades.The way the issue is portrayed in the press often appears to be “industry cuts corners on safety to make money” versus “Government chokes business with red tape”.

But this black and white vision is not helpful. While there will be some hard truths at both ends of the spectrum, by and large businesses are very concerned to maintain their safety records and Government wants industry to thrive.

There is a balance to be achieved, and this idea is captured by regular MRW contributor Keith Riley on emissions standards in the energy-from-waste sector.

There is no doubt, however, that the sector remains one of the most dangerous to work in. The Health and Safety Executive has told MRW it will re-run a safety campaign focusing on heavy machinery and vehicles. Strong regulation in this instance is absolutely essential.

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