Slashing food waste: Major players urged to ‘Step up to Plate’

Image of discarded food in a bin

Players from the worlds of food retail and hospitality, along with social media influencers and chefs, have been urged to take ground-breaking action to drive down food waste from all sources.

The ask comes from the government’s Food Surplus and Waste Champion Ben Elliot ahead of a major symposium called ‘Step up to the Plate’, which he will host next week alongside Environment Secretary Michael Gove at London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum.

Attendees will be expected to sign up to a number of commitments on measuring and reducing their own food waste and inspiring others to follow their lead.

The full pledge has been published today, giving organisations and people an opportunity to do their bit and sign up to take action.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Minister Thérèse Coffey are among the first to sign up to the pledge.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

I want to thank our marvellous Food Surplus and Waste Champion Ben Elliot for his brilliant work in bringing together the biggest players from the world of food to commit to tackling food waste.

Together, we must end the moral, economic, and environmental scandal of food waste. The UK is showing real leadership in this area, but I urge businesses to join me in signing the pledge so we can bring about real change.

Every year, around 100,000 tonnes of readily available and perfectly edible food goes uneaten. It’s time to join together and ‘Step up to the Plate’ to stop good food going to waste.

The pledge asks attendees to reduce food waste by:

  • setting an ambitious target to halve food waste by 2030 in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3
  • adopting the WRAP and IGD Food Waste Reduction Roadmap to have half of all 250 of the of the UK’s largest food businesses measuring, reporting and acting on food waste by 2019
  • embracing a Food Conversation week of action in November 2019 to highlight the changes we can all make
  • using their voice and profile to empower and encourage citizens, including the younger generation
  • changing their habits as an individual to be Food Value Champion at work and at home, buying only what they need and eating what they buy

Food Surplus and Waste Champion Ben Elliot said:

Wasting food is an environmental, moral and financial scandal. We intend for the symposium and pledge to spark action, not just conversation, and inspire us all to champion change.

It’s time to ‘Step up to the Plate’.

Susan Barratt, Chief Executive Officer at Institute of Grocery Distribution, said:

IGD is fully supportive of the ‘Step up to the Plate’ symposium as an important event that will drive awareness of the need to reduce food waste. Some 90 food businesses across the UK have committed to reduce food waste and share their data through the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap developed by WRAP and IGD, but there is more to be done. Our research highlights shopper concern, with 40% seeing the environmental impacts of their food purchases as either very important or extremely important.

The time is right for change, so it is encouraging to see so many representatives from both industry and government coming together to tackle this growing issue.

Helen Munday, Chief Scientific Officer, Food and Drink Federation said:

FDF fully supports the ‘Step up to the Plate’ pledge and the work being done to measure and reduce food waste. We actively encourage our members and the food and drink manufacturing industry as a whole to take advantage of the range of helpful tools available to do so. These include the ‘Target, Measure and Act’ approach set out in the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, of which we are a signatory.

Food Waste is an important issue to FDF members and by working across the value chain, we can make a real change happen on this important social and environmental issue.

Marcus Gover, Chief Executive WRAP, said:

With climate change firmly in the political and social spotlight, it is worth reminding ourselves that unless we fix the world’s food system we will not be able to bring about the reduction in global warming we need to halt the damage to our planet. So we are delighted to pledge WRAP’s support to Ben Elliot’s bold rallying call to ‘Step up to the Plate’. We need to wake up to the amount of food we waste as a nation and take action in our daily lives to stop throwing perfectly good food away.

WRAP’s work through Courtauld Commitment 2025, the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, and the Love Food Hate Waste campaign will support the far-reaching ambition of the pledge and we look forward to working with Ben closely as we join forces to tackle one of the key issues of our generation.

The food waste symposium will run alongside the V&A’s FOOD: Bigger than the Plate exhibition, which will explore similar themes when it opens to the public on Saturday 18 May.

Currently around 43,000 tonnes of surplus food is redistributed from retailers and food manufacturers every year. It is estimated a further 100,000 tonnes of food – equating to 250 million meals a year – is edible and readily available but goes uneaten. Instead, this food is currently sent away for generating energy from waste, anaerobic digestion, or animal feed.

Earlier this year the government launched a £15 million scheme to tackle food waste, building on its landmark Resources and Waste Strategy which sets out how the government will introduce annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses. The first round of successful applicants will be announced shortly. Should progress be insufficient, we will consult on legal powers to introduce mandatory targets for food waste prevention.
The Resources and Waste Strategy also sets out how the government will ensure weekly collections of food waste, which is often smelly and unpleasant, for every household – restoring weekly collections in some local authorities, subject to consultation.

The government is committed to supporting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 2 to end hunger by 2030.

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