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Coffey talks food waste ahead of Defra role announcement

New Defra minister Thérèse Coffey has responded to Parliamentary questions about food waste, and is expected to be handed the waste brief.

Coffey replaced resources minister Rory Stewart in Defra following Theresa May’s first cabinet reshuffle as Prime Minister, but has yet to be formally assigned her responsibilities.

However, she has answered a written question on food waste from recently-appointed shadow Defra secretary Rachael Maskell in the Commons.

Maskell asked about the effectiveness of the department’s voluntary measures to reduce food waste.

In her response, Coffey spoke about WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment, which she said had helped businesses and households reduce food waste while councils had benefitted from reduced disposal costs.

“Household food waste has reduced by 15% between 2007 and 2012 despite an increase of 4% in the number of households in the UK.

“Supply chain food and packaging waste reduced by 7.4% between 2009 and 2012, with interim results for Courtauld 3 showing a further 3.2% reduction in food waste by 2014.

“We want to do more to build on the success of the voluntary approach. WRAP therefore launched Courtauld 2025 on 15 March this year.

“This is a commitment by stakeholders across the UK food and drink system […] and includes a voluntary target of a 20% reduction in food and drink waste arising in the UK.

“According to WRAP’s analysis, reaching this level of reduction would deliver an estimated £20bn savings to the UK economy, including £4bn savings to businesses.”

Defra told MRW Coffey’s answer was a “strong indication” she would be handed the waste brief but said a formal announcement would not be made until the end of the week.

Maskell replaced Kerry McCarthy as Labour’s environment lead last month following the latter’s resignation from Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet.

WRAP has clarified progress on planned guidance for the ‘harmonisation’ of local authority household collections.

A Defra-WRAP launch had been expected on 20 July but it did not take place. Defra officials are positive about the attempt to simplify the different regimes and the initiative has only been postponed while the new ministers get up to speed with their briefs.

A WRAP spokesperson said: “Following the ministerial reshuffle, the publication of our work on greater consistency in household recycling in England is now expected later this year. Improving consistency in household recycling is still very much a priority for WRAP and Defra and we continue to work closely in this area.”

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