The initiative, which would apply to the UK if passed, would wipe out 44m tonnes of food waste every year
Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent
People are being urged to support calls by a major pan-European group to halve ‘farm to fork’ food waste in Europe by 2030, on the eve of a landmark vote later this month.
The European parliament’s environment committee will vote on new regulations on 24 January, which are set to shape the next 15 years of EU food waste policy and have the potential to be the most ambitious, legally binding target on food waste in the world.
A new campaign urges MEPs to halve the amount of food waste generated in the EU by 2030, and for this target to be legally binding at member state level. A movement of 42 organisations from across 15 countries has backed calls for the EU’s circular economy package to support a 50% reduction of food waste by 2030. Separately, 47,000 people have to date signed the public petition (28,000 from Change.org and 19,000 from Global Citizen) backing the move.
If the target is passed, it would become British law before the UK leaves the European Union, making it difficult for the government to backtrack.
Martin Bowman, Campaigner for This is Rubbish, who started the UK public petition, said: “The circular economy package has potential to be the most ambitious food waste agreement in the world, and that’s urgently needed – both for the environment and the millions suffering from food poverty in Europe.”
An estimated 88m tonnes of food is wasted in EU countries every year, which This is Rubbish estimates could feed the 55 million people living in food poverty in Europe more than nine times over.
Kierra Box, campaigner for Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland added: “If approved, this ambitious target to halve food waste across Europe should enter into UK law before we leave the European Union, meaning that it will influence our approach to food waste even after Brexit. If our government tries to wriggle out of this commitment when we leave Europe, it will have a fight on its hands.”
Some EU countries, including France and Italy already have national schemes in place to combat their food waste. Meanwhile, the UK’s major supermarkets will be questioned on Wednesday about food waste throughout the entire supply chain and why there is little comparable data between retailers on food waste data.
In the third evidence session of its inquiry into food waste in England, MPs will want to know why the UK’s levels of redistribution, where out-of-date but edible food is redistributed to the hungry and the needy via charities and food banks, is at less than 2% – much lower than in other European countries.
Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose will all give evidence, along with the Food and Drink Federation, which represents the UK food and drink industry. They will be asked to explain their policies on selling ‘wonky’ or imperfect fruit and vegetables, and whether current best by/use by labelling is contributing to food waste by creating consumer confusion.
Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick of the environment, food and rural affairs committee, said: “Despite the progress made reducing food waste along the supply chain, the amount of reusable, recyclable food that we throw away in the UK is still staggeringly high. Of the estimated 7m tonnes we discard from our homes each year, nearly half is edible.
“We will be asking the supermarkets what more can be done to reduce food waste and this needless expense to our households. We know there is a lot of good practice out there – from Tesco’s work with the Fareshare charity to a £1m food waste trial by Sainsbury’s – and we want to find out more about it.”