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2014 - Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Co-Chair, APSRG

Challenges remain in 2014 after an extremely busy year in waste management. In difficult economic times, the sustainable resource sector has shown that it can continue to be a growth industry, and to play a positive part in the delivery of a greener economy.

Food waste, an area I am particularly interested in, is still a problem on a variety of levels. Despite the tightening of household budgets, a WRAP report found that Britons are throwing away 4.2 million tonnes of food and drink a year that could have otherwise been consumed. In starker terms, this equates to twenty four meals per month – the equivalent of £480 a year.  What a waste! Especially at a time when household budgets are under pressure and dependence on food banks is increasing. These shocking statistics beg the question: what can we do to encourage the sustainable management of food to ensure that such wastage doesn’t occur?

Food waste matters on a global scale, as well, which is why it will be such an important issue in 2014. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that around a third of all food ends up being waste somewhere in the production and consumption line. Taking into account the intensive processes that form this supply chain, including land, water, labour and transport, it is a huge environmental issue which requires proactive, joined up thinking to achieve change.

Food waste will be particularly relevant in the next 12 months as 2014 marks the European Year Against Food Waste, which aims to halve food waste throughout Europe. One of the main challenges with food waste is that its generation takes place in so many different parts of the supply chain, including manufacturers, retailers, and households, and will require action from all to ensure that it is tackled effectively.

The statistics related to food waste have also had an effect on retailers. For example, the UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, has announced that it would reduce the amount of multi-buy promotions available after evidence showed that it 40% of the apples it sold were wasted.

From the Government’s point of view, the Waste Prevention Plan sets out how businesses can become more resource efficient and save money through the prevention of waste, as well as making it easier for people to find out how to reduce their waste. Education for householders is crucial and this demands action from local authorities, government and retailers to achieve this.

Voluntary agreements have a good track record and potential to bring different parts of the sustainable resource industry together. However, with the Government realigning its priorities with regards to waste management, business will need to play its part.

Such different activity across the waste supply chain points in the right direction. However, all of this requires a combined effort, and that is what I hope will be achieved across the sustainable resource sector in 2014.

We all need to play our part in this campaign. I hope that Government, Parliament, and the entire supply chain can work together on such an environmental, economically and morally important issue in 2014. There are around 842 million hungry people in the world, but more than enough food is grown to feed the world. Against this backdrop, food waste is not only wrong, but also unacceptable.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington is Co-Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group.

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