Food waste is a scandal. When people find it hard to access cheap, nutritious food, it is immoral for so much to be thrown away, especially when over a million people in the UK had to turn to food banks over the last year.
Food waste is economically costly but it is also damaging the environment. It is responsible for 20 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year in the UK. It is clear that this problem needs to be addressed but unfortunately, the current Government do not see it as a priority.
The previous Labour Government recognised the importance of food waste and established the Waste Resources Action Plan (WRAP) in 2000. This led to the launch of the Courtauld Commitment (in 2005) which is a voluntary agreement that aims to reduce waste within the grocery sector. 92% of UK retailers, grocery outlets and supermarkets have signed up to the agreement, including all major supermarkets – who work with charities to hand over unwanted edible food. The previous Labour Government’s approach has led to a 15% reduction in household food waste since 2007 and signatories to Courtauld have reported a 7.4% reduction in food supply chain waste since 2010.
The previous Labour Government also recognised the need to address the wider issues of food sustainability and security and developed the Food 2030 strategy which set out actions to reduce food waste in the supply chain and at home. This strategy coupled the recycling of waste food with the need to share or redistribute food to vulnerable people – a goal that is even more urgent following the rapid rise in the use of food banks over the past five years.
It is disappointing that during the last Parliament, the Coalition Government abandoned Food 2030 and cut WRAP funding by £10 million, effectively leaving the UK without an overall strategy to address supply, security and waste in the food industry.
The Food Waste (Reduction) Bill was scheduled to have its second reading debate in the House of Commons on January 29 2016 and was third on the order paper for that day. I was very disappointed that Parliament was denied the opportunity to debate these important issues further.
The Government must do more to tackle food waste throughout the supply chain. I am pleased my Shadow Frontbench colleagues have called for a thorough review of waste policy and I can assure you I will continue to follow this issue very closely.