Combating food waste is everyone's responsibility

There are visible changes making demonstrable impact
Food & Pharma
17 June 2019

The food waste challenge is now being driven by a wide range of actors: food & beverage producers, packaging companies, transport companies, retailers, consumers and governments. The collaboration of everyone is vital to address the environmental issues successfully.

Increased media coverage and consumer awareness may be stirring the narrative on food waste, but industry action is taking positive steps to address the issue. Major retailers have long been aware of the importance of driving down food waste. Tesco have announced that no food from any of their stores has entered a landfill since 2009. Surplus bakery goods are turned into animal feed while other items are donated to foodbanks. There is clearly much more that can be done, however since a lot of waste food still ends up in landfill or incinerated as part of general household or store refuse.
There are visible changes making demonstrable impact. Many supermarkets and wholesalers, for instance, are starting to market previously-rejected imperfect vegetables in novel ways to achieve an environmental win-win for consumers who don’t mind oddly-shaped carrots and producers who are unlocking new revenue streams.

The considerable power supermarkets have in their ability to offer a considerable but highly competitive sales channel to producers mean that when they embrace change, it reinforces and underlines the importance of change to their suppliers.
Food companies such as Nim’s address the issue of food waste head on. Nimisha Raj, founder of UK healthy snack range Nim’s Fruit Crisps, places sustainability as a core objective of the brand.

“We produce air dried fruit and vegetable crisps using the whole fruit, including skin, core and pips (with the exception of pineapple which we peel). Also, during the packing process of our crisps, we filter out all small pieces. And use these “fines” to create several new products, such as Edible Tea, with the idea being: you infuse the “tea”, drink it and then eat the rehydrated fruit. This not only minimises waste but also maximises on nutrition.”

However, Nimisha acknowledges that consumers are increasingly aware of the impact food packaging can have and are looking for food producers to address their concerns around all aspects of Nim’s products sustainability.

“We are often asked by our consumers if our packaging is recyclable. It is but unfortunately the infrastructure isn’t in place to make the process of recycling easy for consumers.
We are looking into alternatives, including home compostable film but it is important that we take an informed decision. For example Home compostable packaging relies on the consumer to utilise a home compost bin to minimise its environmental impact.
Compostable packaging would currently increase the cost of our products by some 10% and in a highly competitive marketplace we would not be able to pass on to our customers.”

It is clear the evolution is being driven by a wide range of actors. Collaboration between food and beverage producers, packaging companies, transport companies, retailers, consumers and government are vital to addressing the environmental issues.

Source: Nim's Fruit Crips - Facebook Page

Government action

The first part of a £15 million scheme announced last year by the UK Environment Secretary to specifically address surplus food from retail and manufacturing is a particularly newsworthy initiative. Further action to cut food waste from all sources is being considered as part of Defra’s Resources and Waste Strategy, which is due to be published later this year. £5 million has initially been earmarked to help redistribution organisations in England overcome financial barriers to redistributing surplus food currently going to waste but which could be redistributed. There is already evidence that positive results are being achieved in the pilot scheme.
Dr David Moon, Head of Business Collaboration at WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Program) is encouraged: “Between 2015 and 2017 surplus food redistributed from retailers, manufacturers and hospitality and food services businesses increased by 50%, with nearly £130 million worth of food saved from waste.”

“And there is the potential to increase this significantly, and to expand the range and type of foods with more fresh produce. Not only will this benefit people, it will also help reduce the huge environmental impact of food waste.”
This pilot scheme addresses just one part of the problem, however. Food waste in the UK totals 10.2 million tonnes per year, of which 1.8 million tonnes comes from food manufacture, 1 million from the hospitality sector, and 260,000 from retail, with the remainder generated by households.

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