Making firm commitment on food waste

Food waste
Food waste

So, guess which rubbish topic has been the flavour of the month in April?

Did you see what I did there? Yes, it’s the unpalatable topic of food waste. It’s still one of the hottest waste issues that our country has to deal with and it’s great to see some of the action that’s taking place – some at a national level and others closer to home.

Barbara Eeles’ feature in this week’s edition highlights what businesses are doing in their commitment to reduce wasted food. Last week I was delighted to meet with Ben Orchard from Adnams and to discover how little food waste is generated by the company - and what is created is actually turned to soil improver and energy at their anaerobic digestion plant over in East Suffolk. There is even a food waste collection from their new café in Bury St Edmunds. If you’re a café or restaurant owner pondering how to make a similar process work for you, they really are a great reference point.

However, in the overall battle against food waste it is recognised that too many businesses in the UK use anaerobic digestion as their first point of call. Admittedly, there is a much needed place for it and it is better than landfill or energy from waste plants but as the food waste hierarchy demonstrates, it is more important to implement systems that can help feed people or animals first – a principle that Adnams follows, with discounts in its stores or from a production perspective, turning its organic waste into a bi-product as animal feed.

As regular readers will now know, supermarkets, distributors and food producers in particular are coming under increasing pressure to find ways to redistribute food that is still good to eat, but due to procedures or absence of local redistribution systems such food continues to be sent for disposal in one form or other.

Therefore it is welcome news that food-related organisations of all shapes and sizes are now able to sign up to the Courtauld Commitment 2025, which amongst other aims, commits them to reducing food waste by 20% over the next ten years – a national voluntary agreement that also provides access to networks and knowledge that can help them achieve their goal.

It is also very good news that the Women’s Institute is soon to vote on its proposed national resolutions, one of which would place pressure on all supermarkets to sign another voluntary agreement to redistribute to charities all surplus food that is still good to eat. If this resolution is supported, I am confident that the fortitude of the WI will help to create a much needed upsurge in the amount of food that is needed to help alleviate the issue of food poverty in the UK.

FareShare, the UK’s largest surplus food distribution charity, currently distributes over 8,500 tonnes of food nationally to 2,290 charities. Last year those charities turned that food into 17.7 million meals for vulnerable people. FareShare does a lot of great work but by no means does it sit on its laurels. It estimates that its sector currently captures only 2% of good quality surplus food and its own target is to increase this to 25% by 2020.

So there is a real role for the WI in helping to achieve this. Even in providing a local briefing recently to discuss the resolution with members, an opportunity has now been created to connect a local supermarket with several local charities and hopefully the start of new relationships that can benefit each other. Imagine what more could happen around the UK if members voted in favour of the resolution in June.

So watch this space. I hope this is the start of making the most of surplus food locally. If it’s a subject or opportunity that’s of interest to you, I welcome you to get in touch.