Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A much needed Food Waste Bill

Kerry McCarthy MP, pictured 3rd from right, with parliamentary supporters, including Caroline Lucas MP and Zac Goldsmith MP.
Yesterday I had the honour of being invited to Westminster, to meet Kerry McCarthy MP and to hear more about the Food Waste Bill, which she is presenting to the House of Commons today.

In a nutshell, the Bill would significantly reduce the obscene amount of food wasted by supermarkets and manufacturers by increasing the donation of good food to charities for managed redistribution to those who are living in food poverty in the UK.

Voluntary food distribution does exist in the UK, but this bill would see a much wider implementation,  and Kerry McCarthy brings to government first-hand experience of how successfully a well managed operation can help the local community.  She is patron of FoodCycle, a charity which has a small number of hubs and cafes across the UK, which uses donated food to cater for those in need.  Kelvin Cheung, CEO of FoodCycle, shared with us his passion about the impact that a wider scheme could have on communities.

Tristram Stuart, campaigner and author of the shockingly revealing book Waste, was also in attendance to show his support and demonstrated clearly how what he referred to as an environmental liability could be so easily turned into something of value, prioritising food redistribution to people in the first instance or where appropriate, repurposing the food as animal feedstock.  He asserted that sending food for waste treatment should always be the last option.

Of course under current legislation, much of what was discussed yesterday would fill many manufacturers or retailers with dread, especially over the issue of liability.  It was evident that the solution is to implement models and a legal framework that overcome such problems.  Jim Larson, Program Director, of US based Food Donation Connection, demonstrated how his organisation has co-ordinated food redistribution since 1992, offering a service that helps the industry to identify which food can be donated, ensure it is safely packaged and labelled and properly chilled or frozen to meet the requirements of redistribution. Donor partners, which include well known names such as KFC and Pizza Hut, consequently receive tax reductions for the surplus food that is donated.

When you hear the success of schemes such as this, which offer obvious solutions to the industry's wasteful practices, it is hard to comprehend why we've accepted this amount of waste for so long.  And it is both obvious and urgent that a solution must be found for the UK.

The Food Waste Bill, which is being presented to Parliament today, will:

1. Place a legal obligation on large supermarkets and large manufacturers to donate a proportion of their surplus food for redistribution to charities, which redistribute it to individuals in food poverty. Food which is unfit for human consumption should be made available for livestock feed in preference to disposal.

2. Encourage and incentivise all other businesses and public bodies which generate food waste - from small food retailers to restaurants - to donate a great proportion of their surplus for redistribution. This would enshrine in law the waste hierarchy that will have to be implemented by all business and public bodies by 12-12-13 under the latest EU Waste Framework Directive.

3. Remove any (real or perceived) barriers to food donation. A UK version of 1996 US legislation, The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, is needed, which protects good faith donors and recipient agencies/foodbanks from civil and criminal liability, except in cases of gross negligence and/or intentional  misconduct.  It would apply to all potential food donors - including individuals, private companies, food retailers and manufacturers, caterers and restaurateurs

Hearing shocking statistics that 50% of edible and healthy food gets wasted across the EU, I have great hopes that today's reading will spur our own government into action and I urge you to encourage your local MP to support the bill and help change legislation.

This final week of The Rubbish Diet Challenge encourages you to look outside the home and become aware of the wider waste footprint.

And you certainly can't beat a touch of citizen-led enthusiasm to raise awareness of something so important as the food waste issue, whether it's asking your council to take the lead in analysing its own waste, contacting your local supermarket to highlight your concerns or inspiring your local school to embark on a food waste project.

And you know, this stuff is really not rocket science. It truly isn't.  While the decision-makers of our country embark on life-changing legislation, those who want to, really can inspire change at a local level too, illustrated by the latest food-waste research project that is being undertaken by the Eco Club at our local primary school, where members are weighing waste daily and looking at ways in which they can reduce their impact on the food waste mountain.

As well as hoping for good things at a national level, I am also clearly excited about seeing their findings and discussing the opportunities that arise.

Encouraging action being taken by our local primary school, as illustrated in its latest newsletter.

Kerry McCarthy is the MP for the Bristol East constituency.  The Food Waste Bill has already received cross-party support and will be presented after Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on 14 March 2012.  For more information visit


Waste Services said...

The developed world chucks out a lot of food. Such is the volume that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), if just 5 percent of Americans' food scraps were recovered it would represent one day's worth of food for 4 million people.

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