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Gove signals action on food waste

Environment secretary Michael Gove has announced a £15m pilot scheme to divert commercial and retail food which would otherwise be wasted to people judged in most need.

He told this week’s Conservative Party conference in Birmingham: “Every year, millions of tonnes of good, nutritious, edible food is thrown away. This is an environmental, economic and moral folly, and we will address it.”

Some 250 million extra meals a year could go “on to the tables and plates of the most deserving in our society”, Gove added.

Defra later said the pilot scheme would launch in 2019-20 and specifically address surplus food from retail and manufacturing.

UK food waste totalled 10.2 million tonnes a year, of which 1.8 million comes from from food manufacture, one million from the hospitality sector and 260,000 from retail, with the remainder from households. 

Speaking in Birmingham, Gove referred to a forthcoming food strategy, but made no direct reference to his department’s resources and waste strategy, which is due this autumn.

He said only: “We will take steps to make recycling easier, invest in cleaner technologies and take tougher action against the fly-tippers and waste criminals who pollute our landscape and trash our blue planet.”

A Defra statement said further action to cut food waste from all sources, not just commercial or retail, was being considered as part the resources and waste strategy.

Gove also mentioned plastics pollution in his speech, saying: “The equivalent of a dumper truck of plastic is dropped in the sea every minute of every day.

“Unless we change course, by the year 2050, the seas will contain more plastic than fish. We cannot, and we will not, allow that to happen.”

Hailing the plastic bag charge as having cut the number of bags distributed by almost 90%, he said: “We are unleashing the innovative energy of our scientists and the entrepreneurial flair of our businesses to develop new greener products that are already generating new jobs.”


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