New Food Surplus and Waste Champion announced

The government has appointed its first ever Food Surplus and Waste Champion to drive the UK’s fight against food waste.

The person chosen for the task is Ben Elliot, who is described as a philanthropist and co-founder of Quintessentially Group, a members-only ‘luxury lifestyle management service’ that provides 24-hour concierge services. He is also Chair of the Quintessentially Foundation, the charitable arm of the Group, which raises money for various causes and has recently partnered with the Felix Project, a charity tackling food waste and food poverty in London.

New Food Surplus and Waste Champion announced
Ben Elliot: Food waste in the UK is "morally deplorable and largely avoidable".
The unpaid position, which was set out in the recently published Resources and Waste Strategy, has been created with the aim of setting an ‘ambitious direction to help drive down unnecessary food waste in England’.

Food waste was placed centre stage in the Resources and Waste Strategy, as the second of five key ambitions – to work towards eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030. Within this ambition are more targeted aims, including a plan to introduce mandatory separate collections of food waste, subject to consultation, by 2023. This was well-received by industry, as it would bring England in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where households already have access to this service.

There is also the possibility that businesses over a certain size will be required to report on their food waste figures, though this is also subject to consultation.

Read more: Industry welcomes ‘bold and radical’ Resources and Waste Strategy

Environment Minister Michael Gove appointed Elliot to the position on Monday (31 December), saying: “Food waste is an economic, environmental and moral scandal. We must end it. That’s why I am delighted Ben Elliot is taking up this position and know he will bring the enthusiasm and skills this important role needs. His first task will be to help ensure our £15 million food waste fund redistributes surplus food that would otherwise be wasted to those most in need.”

According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), around 100,000 tonnes of edible food – equivalent to 250 million meals – is wasted every year in the food retail and manufacturing sectors when it should have been easily accessible to those in need. The food waste fund, which was announced at the Conversation Party conference in October 2018, will go towards helping these sectors redistribute their edible surplus.

Commenting on the problem of food waste in the UK, Elliot said: “Whilst families all over the country struggle to put food on the table and children still go to school each day with empty stomachs, there continues to be an unforgivable amount of food waste which is both morally deplorable and largely avoidable.

“As a nation, we need to stop this excessive waste and ensure that surplus food finds its way to people in our society who need it most, and not let it get thrown away and go to landfill. The progress that we have made at the Felix Project has had a positive impact on thousands of people’s lives in London and I am extremely grateful to all of those involved in the food sector that have been so supportive.

“My new appointment will allow me to work with DEFRA and food retailers all over the country to help build out a nationwide strategy that will ensure surplus food is not wasted at the expense of those in our society that truly need it.”

Elliot will be in the role for one year, and his key responsibilities include:

  • Supporting and championing the implementation of the food waste prevention policies outlined in the Resources and Waste Strategy;
  • Encouraging actors in the food sector to work together to generate ideas and workable solutions on food surplus and waste issues;
  • Advising the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on proposals for the distribution of the £15 million food waste fund; and
  • Motivating business leaders to tackle food waste from farm to fork, including through support for the delivery of the Courtauld Commitment 2025.

He will also have to provide regular updates to Defra officials and government ministers on the progress being made by businesses to address food waste and surplus.

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