A Parliamentary committee has warned ‘urgent action’ needs to be taken to reduce food waste in the EU and that the UK Government should think again over reductions to WRAP funding.
A report produced by the Lords’ European Union Committee said: “In the UK, there is a high risk of false economy if the cuts to WRAP’s funding to support food waste prevention ultimately lead to resource inefficiency in terms of economic costs to businesses and households.
“We therefore recommend that the UK Government work closely with WRAP to assess the impact of the budget cut on WRAP’s ability to contribute to food waste prevention, particularly in the context of its unique ability to work along the whole supply chain.”
The report, titled Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention, warned 90 million tonnes of food was being wasted across the EU every year, and around 15 million tonnes in the UK.
Committee chairman Baroness Scott said: “The UK Government has a role to play in encouraging co-operation throughout the supply chain.
“They can also consider whether tax incentives might be used to encourage retailers to ensure unsold food that is still fit for human consumption is actually eaten by people, for example by working with food banks, rather than sent to compost or for energy recovery, or even landfill, as is often the case at present.”
The Committee also called on the European Commission to publish a five-year strategy on food waste prevention.
The report criticised current EU-level policies as being ‘fragmented and untargeted’. It said large-scale supermarket chains ‘dominate’ food sales in the UK and should ‘act more responsibly in limiting food waste by both farmers and consumers’.
But it held back from recommending introducing binding targets because the baseline information “is simply not available across the EU at present”.
Baroness Scott said food waste was “morally repugnant”.
She added: “We cannot allow the complexity of the issues around defining and monitoring food waste to delay action any further.”
Extracts from Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention:
…“We share the view of our witnesses that the waste hierarchy as applied to food is most effectively represented as a food use hierarchy, focused on prevention and redistribution to humans and animals, wherever possible. As this interpretation has not been formally recognised, we recommend that the European Commission publishes guidance on the application of the waste hierarchy to food.”
…”We conclude that the idea of a universal food waste definition that works across the food supply chain and at different geographical scales defies the complexities of the European food supply chain. We recommend that a more productive approach would be to standardise approaches to defining different material and waste flows at each stage of the food supply chain, including unavoidable waste.”