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Big ambitions need strong support

Radical Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formally adopted by world leaders at a United Nations summit in New York this summer, recognise the important role of waste reduction, recycling and reuse in achieving a sustainable global food supply.

Replacing the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs consist of 17 goals with the ambitious aim of ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice and fixing climate change globally in the next 15 years (see box).

Unlike the MDGs, which targeted developing countries only, the SDGs will apply to the entire world.

Each goal sets out deliverables that will need to be met in order to achieve the targets, and many of these will require countries to implement significant cultural, behavioural and legislative changes.

In order to tackle the issues of food security and global hunger, the SDGs recognise that we need to ensure more sustainable consumption and production patterns. A number of goals focus on the pressing need to reduce and recycle food waste.

The targets state that, by 2030, we should halve the per capita of global food waste at both retail and consumer levels, reduce food losses along supply chains and substantially cut waste generation through prevention, reduction, reuse and recycling.

This is a positive move because food waste recycling has a critical role in creating sustainable futures. Diverting food waste from landfill not only reduces cost and carbon emissions, but recycling it through anaerobic digestion also has the potential to help meet the SDG target of providing renewable and sustainable energy.

The introduction of the SDGs, together with a recent EU circular economy (CE) report which also called for a 30% reduction in food waste by 2030 and the introduction of measures to reduce incineration of recyclable waste, demonstrates that there is significant political will across the globe to instigate dramatic change when it comes to the reduction and recycling of food waste.

There is no surprise, then, that we are also starting to see the issue moving up the political agenda in the UK, and last month Kerry McCarthy introduced a Food Waste (Reduction) Bill. But we still need to see more of a joined-up approach to managing food waste in the UK, focussing on recycling and reuse, as well as reduction.

We hope that global targets in the form of the SDGs and CE report will be catalysts for behavioural, cultural and legislative change in this country, and we want to see a stronger stance from the Government to support this process.

In order to do this, ReFood is campaigning for a national waste strategy that focuses on separating food waste for recycling and a total ban on food waste sent to landfill by 2020, which will help to tackle climate change and ensure a sustainable energy source for the future.     

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

These come into effect on 1 January 2016.

Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.

Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Goal 8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

Goal 10 Reduce inequality within and among countries.

Goal 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Goal 12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Goal 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*.

Goal 14 Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Goal 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Goal 16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

* Acknowledging that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

Philip Simpson is commercial director at ReFood

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