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Government needs to be tougher on food waste

The Government needs to take a tougher stance on retailers to tackle the problem of food waste, an influential watchdog will say in a report due out tomorrow (February 16 2008).

The Sustainable Development Commissions (SDC) report entitled Green, healthy and fair, will say that Government has not put pressure on retailers into setting tougher targets to cut the 1.6 million tonnes of food waste that they produce. The report will condemn the Courtauld Commitment, set up by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) for retailers to tackle packaging and find solutions to food waste, as being unambitious and lacking urgency.

SDC commissioner Tim Lang told MRW: The Courtauld Commitment was an interesting attempt to get everybody in the same room to talk about food waste. But it is a weak measure and is not delivering the quantum leap that we think is needed at the SDC, although we supported it when it came into existence. The onus should not be on the consumer. The measures are not good enough, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) need to be tougher and need to act with a sense of urgency.

The 18-month study will say that the Government should adopt a more sustainable approach to reducing waste in food retail by setting longer-term targets and introducing enablers to support a culture of zero waste.

Lang added: Courtauld was the step in the right direction but it was like being in a darkened room with a little pinpoint of light in it but we want a floodlight. The Government can provide that floodlight and help tackle waste. The powerful companies [supermarkets] need a clearer direction of travel and the Government can do more.

In response WRAPs retail and organics director Richard Swannell said that he welcomed the report as it highlighted the problem of food waste. He said: The SDC is right that no specific target was set for food waste because there was little data on the extent of the problem and where most food waste arose. Research has shown that household waste is the single biggest source of food waste arisings and as such WRAPs initial focus has been this. We have launched the Love Food Hate Waste campaign to address the 6.7m tonnes of household food waste we send to landfill out of a total 16.18 m tonnes produced in the UK.

A Defra spokeswoman said: Reducing food waste is one of the priority areas of waste as identified in our waste strategy. 

The department said that it will assess what further action will be needed on food waste in the light of evaluation of the successes of the WRAP campaign and Courtauld Commitment.

Image: SDC commissioner Tim Lang

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