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MPs to investigate food waste

A Parliamentary inquiry into the economic, social and environmental impact of food waste in England has been launched.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efra), the watchdog that oversees the work of Defra, is focusing on consumers, the retail and hospitality sectors, and local government. Manufacturing and agriculture sectors are not within its scope.

MPs will consider the impact of voluntary initiatives and whether or not legislation is required.

Defra’s policy under the present Government and the coalition before that was generally light-touch, particularly in England. While Scotland has introduced regulations about food waste in the commercial sector, ministers responsible for English policy have favoured industry-led voluntary initiatives such as the Courtauld Commitments (signatories pictured above) and the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement.

Both agreements are led by WRAP, and were pioneered and championed by former chief executive Liz Goodwin who left the charity at the end of June.

There have been calls from the industry, notably the organics sector, for a ban on food waste going to landfill and this could yet feature in the final version of the circular economy Directive being discussed in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Efra chair Neil Parish said the amount of reusable, recyclable food thrown away was “staggeringly high”.

“Of the estimated seven million tonnes we discard from our homes each year, nearly half is edible. Not only does this have an effect on the family purse, but the environmental cost is equally heavy. We will be asking what more can be done to reduce food waste and this needless expense to our households.”

The committee is inviting written evidence on five questions:

  • What is the economic, environmental and social impact of food waste in England?
  • What measures could be most effective in reducing food waste by retailers, the hospitality sector, local government and consumers? (These can include redistribution, recycling and recovery, and improved packaging and labelling)
  • What proposals are necessary to further reduce food waste?
  • How effective are existing voluntary initiatives in England and is there a need for legislation?
  • What are the comparative approaches to reducing and managing food waste in the devolved nations, and across Europe?

Jeremy Jacobs, technical director of the Renewable Energy Association said the inquiry was a step towards separate food waste collections.

”While the Committee should recognise that the waste hierarchy is followed wherever possible, separate collections can help support the growth of the green gas industry, improve recycling rates, and reduce potent greenhouse gas emissions from landfill,” he said.

The deadline for written submissions is 13 September 2016 and each should be no longer than 3,000 words.


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