Published Thursday 30th May 2019

At the end of 2018, The UK Government’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced the new Resources and Waste Strategy in England. This wide-ranging ambition is part of a broader movement looking to combat many environmental issues, including increased levels of recycling and plastic packaging reforms.

A noticeable part of this report, however, concerns the levels of food waste created and misused in the UK. Food is another area of the ‘circular economy’ that is being targeted for rapid improvements at a high level. Businesses will have to be aware of how these future changes, from Government and industry, could impact their practices going forward.

UK Resources and Waste Strategy for Food

Working with the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the Resources and Waste Strategy aims to help with “minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy.” A combination of short-term and long-term plans, the strategy is designed to create a blueprint for “eliminating avoidable waste of all kinds by 2050.”

Concerning food, the Government has laid out a few key changes that it wishes to see over the long-term. These include the effective redistribution of food before it goes to waste, annual food waste reporting and, notably, changes to legal powers to accompany these new ambitions. The legal capabilities will be implemented after consultations, but it is likely they will follow a ‘producer pays’ model seen in other waste areas.

Food Waste Creating Industry Changes

As previously mentioned, this Strategy is but one of many steps taken in the UK and beyond over the last few years to eliminate unnecessary food waste. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, of which the UK is a key driver, aims to reduce global food waste by half by 2030. This ambition is echoed in the UK Government’s Strategy, which previously included a £15m scheme to help redistribute surplus food.

The importance of understanding and acting on the Government’s ambitions is evidenced by the actions of some of the UK’s biggest food businesses. Earlier in May, a food waste pledge tabled by the Government was signed by Nestlé, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, committing them all to reach the 2030 target.

An example of new processes being implemented is Costa Coffee, one of the leading food chains in the UK. In April, they began piloting a new waste collection scheme designed to create daily waste food collections via food sharing app OLIO. Launched in Hull as part of the Cranswick Hull Food Save Project, this scheme will be rolled out further if it proves successful.

Be Prepared for Future Food Waste Changes

Many of these discussions have been had; however, there is concern about how this will work in practice. The Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, particularly in the area concerning food, sets out plans for consultations, future publishing and increased awareness. For the most part, it is currently unclear what the final form of any future regulation will look like or whether it will be fit for purpose.

Many factors could influence Government legislation over the next few years. These include Brexit, changes in Government and global expectations, to name a few. The strength of any regulation, the speed of its implementation and the potential effects on business practices could vary noticeably, dependent on the outcomes of these political processes. Therefore, businesses must not only begin to start implementing changes to their waste strategy but also remain agile enough to adapt if or when the need arises.

At Expense Reduction Analysts, we have experts in waste expense management who have worked at high levels in the industry for many years. Their specialist knowledge can help your business reduce costs and prepare for the long-term changes expected. So, if you are looking at evaluating your current waste procurement strategies, why not speak to our team today and see what they could do for you?