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Calls for processors to publish annual food waste figures

By Rory Harrington , 19-Jan-2010
Last updated on 19-Jan-2010 at 13:44 GMT

Food processors and manufacturers are among those who should be forced to report tonnages of food waste from their business on an annual basis, a UK parliamentary report has said.

This was one of a raft of recommendations proposed by a House of Commons select committee as it strongly criticised the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over its Waste Strategy for England 2007.

The plan and its follow up reports are “are long on rhetoric but short on a detailed action plan to deliver a low waste society”, said a statement from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. It said the department’s strategy had left “England’s waste mountain with no clear targets for its reduction, and leaves 90 per cent of waste without specific recycling targets”.

It criticised Government knowledge of commercial and industrial recycling rates as “patchy and outdated”. Instead Defra concentrates its efforts on achieving improved recycling rates in the domestic sector which accounts for only 10 per cent of England’s waste, the committee added.

Chairman of the cross-party group, the Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, said: "Defra must give a clear lead on what it thinks the potential is for business to reduce its waste levels and increase its rates of recycling. At the same time it must encourage companies to take a completely new view of waste and see it as a valuable source of raw material which must not be squandered in these difficult economic times".

Food waste

The report highlights the “key role” that food suppliers, manufacturers and retailers have in reducing the “significant volume” of food wasted before it reaches the consumer. It said the food, drink and tobacco manufacturing industry produces some 7.2 million tonnes of waste a year. The committee acknowledged the majority of this is returned to the supply chain for reprocessing but that 1.9 million tonnes of is still sent to landfill.

In a bid to combat littering and fly-tipping, the committee recommended the Government look at the practicalities of applying a “clean up” tax on products that create most rubbish. Pinpointing the drinks and confectionery sectors – including chewing gum – the group suggested a charge on those industries which, “together with their packaging, contribute the largest volumes of litter”. Revenues from the clean-up levy could be given to councils to clear their areas of trash.

The report also said that all retailers with a turn-over greater than £50 million should publish details of their waste prevention strategies and recycling performance.

Other recommendations from the committee included re-evaluating the impact of cuts to waste efficiency programmes and bodies such as the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, and look at how such programmes can be expanded to help more organisations.

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