Industry food waste action plan in development

Industry food waste action plan in developmentResources Minister Rory Stewart has given his backing to a new action plan for food waste recycling, after a steering group met for the first time last week.

Initiated by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) with the steering group chaired by waste and resource specialist Ray Georgeson, the action plan aims to support food waste collectors to increase the amount they collect and secure the supply of food waste as a key feedstock to the anaerobic digestion (AD) and in-vessel composting (IVC) sectors.

The steering group, overseeing the planning and delivery of the scheme, consists of representatives from the food waste treatment industry, local authority collectors, private-sector waste collectors and industry bodies.

Funded by Defra, the group will deliver the plan, instigating targets in a bid to increase the amount of household and commercial food waste collected and recycled in England.

The steering group has formed after WRAP CEO Dr Liz Goodwin called for food waste to be made ‘top priority’ in June. WRAP figures suggest that UK households waste seven million tonnes of food waste each year, and the organisation hopes that by increasing the volume of food waste recycled, England will be able to meet the EU target of 50 per cent recycling by 2020.

During its inaugural meeting in Birmingham last week, the group discussed themes for the action plan, including:

  • communication to householders;
  • ways to improve existing collections; and
  • alternative contractual arrangements to help fund collections

Smaller sub-groups have also been formed to research themes in more detail; the group will reconvene in November, and the action plan is due to be published at the end of March 2016.

Food waste ‘a costly loss for local authorities’

Following the steering group’s first meeting, Rory Stewart, Defra Resources Minister, supported the move by the industry. He said: “From big businesses through to the supermarket shopper – we all have a responsibility to waste less food. It’s great news that UK homes are throwing away 15 per cent less food than in 2007, and together with WRAP we are working with retailers and industry to reduce this even further. 

“But we also need to make sure that where food waste is unavoidable, it is treated in the most sustainable way.”

Marcus Gover, Director at WRAP, added: “At present, just over 10 per cent of household food waste is captured and recycled. This means that the majority is still ending up in the residual waste stream, which is a costly loss for local authorities and a missed opportunity for food waste recyclers. Keeping it out of landfill and channelling it into recycling is an urgent priority, which is why we need the whole sector to work together – and this is exactly what the new action plan is designed to achieve.” 

Commenting on the steering group’s first meeting, its Chairman Ray Georgeson said: “There was a real energy and enthusiasm from everyone in the room to work together to assess carefully where we have got to and then identify the important next steps to improve food waste recycling performance.

“I’m confident that by working more closely across the supply chain, identifying current barriers, and finding ways to overcome these as cost effectively as possible for all involved, we can find the best ways forward and increase the amount of food waste we currently recycle. I’m delighted to be chairing the steering group and looking forward to working with such a committed team from across the sector.”

Read more about the food waste recycling plan.

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