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Food waste is a huge concern across the industry. Figures from WRAP state that total household waste stands at 7.1 million tonnes. Plenty of produce is cast aside before even reaching the plate of the consumer. When it comes to the UK, the focus on aesthetics is a big part of the issue, as consumers have become used to ‘perfect’ fruit and vegetables in particular, being presented by the supermarkets. Wonky or imperfect produce often doesn’t even make it to the retailers. Aside from food waste being a tragic loss of produce, it also takes a lot of precious resources to produce in the first place, such as land and water to grow crops.
The impact of food waste on the environment is also monumental. Paul Hargreaves, CEO at Cotswold Fayre implores businesses not to send any waste products to landfill: “Having spent a lot of time with poor communities in developing countries, I have always thought the amount of food we waste in the west is completely scandalous purely due to the waste of resources involved in producing food that isn’t eaten. However, I have also become aware recently just how damaging waste food is to the environment, with one of the main by-products from decomposing food in landfill being methane, which is up to 30 times worse than CO2 with respect to damaging the atmosphere resulting in climate change. It is essential that food and drink producers do not send any waste products to landfill, and, like Cotswold Fayre, use an organisation like City Harvest, who collect all of our waste to be redistributed to good causes.”
Plenty is being done to make changes across the food and drink industry to combat the topic however. WRAP is a mission-driven organisation wanting to accelerate the move towards a sustainable, resource-efficient economy and has ongoing campaigns to spread awareness. Eleanor Morris, programme area manager says, “The mission of sustainability organisation WRAP is to use resources more sustainably on a global level. Within the UK, WRAP has voluntary agreements with business and industry as well as consumer facing campaigns aimed at reducing food waste. For the food and drink sector, WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025 and the IGD UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap are the key routes to addressing the challenge of food waste across all sectors. The focus is on adopting a method of target, measure and act to tackle food waste reduction head on.”
Eleanor goes onto say change is happening; “In the UK, fantastic work is already happening on food waste reduction and we all have a part to play. WRAP accelerates change on the ground wherever people are, at home or at work. This year Defra appointed its Food Surplus and Waste Champion, Ben Elliot, to spearhead change; following the launch of his pledge at the ‘Step Up To The Plate’ event on May 13th, a food waste week will be held in early November to help all of us understand how we can change our behaviours and actions, and the climate-related consequences if we don’t. WRAP has tools and resources which are all freely available for businesses, including the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, Courtauld 2025, and Guardians of Grub. Citizens can visit the Love Food Hate Waste website for more information, and check out the new campaign Spoiled Rotten to help you reduce your impact on climate change.”
It’s not just organisations like WRAP that are fighting hard to reduce the amount of food that gets wasted in the UK – there are plenty of brands that are finding ways to produce products that are made in a sustainable way. Take Rubies in the Rubble, which makes condiments such as ketchup, chutney and relish from excess ingredients that would otherwise simply go to waste. Jenny Costa, founder and CEO says, “We’re now poised to make sustainable sauces the mainstream, and take on the market leaders. We recently cracked the recipe for the perfect ketchup. We know that consumers quite like the sweetness they get from a standard ketchup, but when the food industry is looking to cut back on its sugar content, we were faced with the challenge of launching a product that could compete with the market leader, but with much less sugar. It wasn’t easy, but we’ve done it; using rescued pears for that tasty sweetness, with 50% less refined sugar than other leading brands. This means that for every 100kg of product we sell, we save 45.kg of pears, and this is the equivalent of 17.5kg of CO2e.”
Spare Snacks founder Ben Whitehead adds, “Food waste is a complex issue that needs a collaborative solution – with brands like ours, supermarkets, producers, Government and of course consumers, working together. “Our aim is to rescue 5,000 tonnes of surplus produce over the next five years, but the real impact surplus brands can have is in the awareness raising. 70% of food is wasted at home in the UK and we’ve reached an estimated audience of 200 million people this year, so if we can even 10% think twice about how they value food, then we’ll be doing our bit.”