‘We need leadership on food waste’

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food waste, Local government

The role of packaging in preventing food waste is not widely understood
The role of packaging in preventing food waste is not widely understood
Ambitions to build on the UK’s 21% reduction in avoidable domestic food waste recorded since 2007, and recognition of packaging’s role in facilitating such change, are being undercut by lack of central government commitment, specific targets and funding, say packaging industry experts.

Speaking at last month’s Fresher for Longer (FFL) conference in London, Dan Rogerson MP, minister for resource management at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), argued that politicians were more positive about packaging now food waste had become more of an issue.

“There’s a lot less picking on packaging because it is an easy target,” ​he said. “The message has started to be communicated that packaging actually plays an important role.”​ A decade ago, attitudes in Parliament were very different, he suggested.


Among those listening to his speech was chief executive of the Packaging and Films Association Barry Turner. He said: “It’s encouraging to have a minister who understands the role that packaging plays. But if we’re going to make a step change in reducing food waste, central government can’t rely on retailers, local government and the supply chain, together with the depleted resources of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). They must show some leadership.”

Last summer, it was announced that the coming financial year would see DEFRA’s share of just under half of WRAP’s budget cut by 40% to £18M. This is expected to be further reduced to £15.5M for 2015/2016, said the organisation. At the same time, less funding is likely from the Scottish government. The organisation is currently considering charitable status as an option.

Earlier, WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin described as “amazing​” the 1.1Mt reduction in unnecessary household food waste since 2007. WRAP had an “ambition”​ she said to further halve the total by 2025. But a dramatic slowing in the rate of reduction in the last few years was a “real disappointment”​, she said.

Funding cuts

DEFRA’s Rogerson reported: “The partnership approach​ [in FFL] is very much welcomed by government.”​ But some might see this as making a virtue of necessity, given the funding cuts hitting local authorities as well as WRAP.

Of round three of the Courtauld Commitment, launched last May, he said: “This shifts the focus back on to food waste, while the target is for no growth in packaging tonnage, even if the sector grows.”

Rogerson pointed out that FFL was cited as a case study in DEFRA’s Waste Prevention Programme for England published last year. But, asked why the programme gave no specific target for food waste reduction, he said: “Rather than obsess about targets, which might act as a distorting mechanism, we have tried to focus on outcomes. It's about achieving multiple waste prevention outcomes with a limited amount of money.”

Related topics: Packaging materials

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