Sarah Daly at Best Foot Forward shows how the industry is eating its words and changing its ways to respond.
Shocking news from a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) entitled GLOBAL FOOD WASTE NOT, WANT NOT - Feeding the 9 Billion: The tragedy of waste concludes that up to 50% of food produced globally is wasted; with a staggering 30% estimated to never even be harvested as it’s not deemed ‘attractive’ enough.
The scandal of food waste, primarily from developed countries, hits sustainability on many levels. Firstly, of course we have the huge moral issue of waste, when billions of people are starving or living on land which can’t support their needs.
There is the issue of over-production and how that is depleting the quality of land and the associated environmental impacts of land and water degradation through over-use of chemical fertilisers – many of which it seems, are being used to increase output of food we will never eat. There are of course, substantial impacts of water and energy used in both growing food and in its subsequent processing, packaging and distribution. And at each stage the direct waste and packaging creates a double whammy in terms of the negative impact of its wasted production and disposal.
Retailers are working harder to reduce ‘shrinkage’ at point of sale; but still we know vast amounts of food passes its sell-by date or has damaged packaging which means it can be removed from sale to enter the waste mountain. Organisations like Foodshare are working hard to reduce food poverty in the UK by redistribution of food which would otherwise be wasted at any point in the food chain.
According to WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign, we throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. It's costing us £12bn a year (an average of £480 per household) and of course it’s bad for the environment too.
WRAP is funded by the Governments of the UK to reduce waste and encourage sustainable use of resources. Projects like Love Food Hate Waste are primarily targeted at the consumer but also dovetail with initiatives like the Courtauld Commitment 2 – which is aimed at the grocery and retail sectors including their supply chains; and the Hospitality & Food Service Agreement which aims to cut food and associated packaging waste by 5% and increase the overall rate of food and packaging waste that is being recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion or composted, to 70% by 2015. Organisations like the Sustainable Restaurant Association are critical in bridging relationships between the industry and WRAP in order to create sector-led, voluntary responses to the issues.
Indeed in 2012, I was pleased to work with the SRA and Space Catering Equipment to write the SRA Guide to Sustainable Kitchens and also by chairing the first SRA Forum with a wide range of foodservice and hospitality representatives to discuss the challenges of better sourcing, resource efficiency and waste reduction.
Best Foot Forward is currently working with WRAP on a number of projects including the Product Sustainability Forum where waste is a consideration when assessing the environmental impact of food products. Best Foot Forward is also delighted to have been awarded the contract to work with DEFRA on a soon-to-be-launched project, adding to the growing portfolio of client activity around food futures, behaviours and impacts.