25 May 2021

The need for mandatory food waste measurement

Climate emergency and food waste regulation

A recent report by the UN highlighted that the food system accounts for over one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. To put it plainly, even if every other sector of the economy decarbonised, without addressing the climate damage caused by the food system, we cannot meet climate goals to remain below 1.5°C of warming. A key component is tackling food waste; around one third of the world’s food is wasted – enough to feed billions of people and unnecessarily using 30% of the world’s agricultural area. Food waste is a climate issue, but it is not on the climate agenda.

To date, the UK’s approach to food waste reduction has focused on voluntary measures which have been primarily business-led. Over the years these have contributed to considerable change: there are now around 261 businesses signed up to the latest iteration of these agreements, the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. However, the time for voluntary measurement has passed – to effectively tackle food waste we need to make food waste measurement mandatory. It might not seem like much but knowing exactly how much waste there is, is a crucial first step to reducing this industrial scale problem.

At Feedback, we have been consistently calling for mandatory measurement. The UK government has considered making it a legal requirement but have been dragging their heels and delaying. The government has been promising a consultation on mandatory measurement but a date for the consultation has not been confirmed. Moreover, it seems that the proposed measures will not be ambitious enough. Businesses over a certain size will have to report on their food waste figures – but the suggested timelines mean that it will not be enforced until late 2022, with companies only starting measuring in 2023 and reporting their figures in 2024. We are in the decisive decade for action on climate change, we need real action now.

In the EU, the Waste Framework Directive will soon come into force meaning countries will have to report their sector-wide food waste data from 2023 (for example manufacturing sector as a whole, retail as a whole). Unfortunately, in practice most primary production waste will be excluded, as the measurement excludes any food that’s used on farms (for example left to rot in fields or ploughed back into the soil).

For more information see our long read;  Why the climate emergency demands food waste regulation

Article by Feedback Global