A new £15 million government fund will help tackle food waste and redistribute the equivalent of 250 million meals to those in need, environment minister Michael Gove has announced.
Speaking at this week’s Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Gove said the new scheme will specifically address waste from supermarkets and food manufacturers as the first part of a new ‘food strategy’.
“Every year, around 100,000 tonnes of readily available and perfectly edible food is never eaten. This has got to change,” he said. “In the coming months we will work closely with business, charities and volunteers to deliver a new scheme to tackle this problem.”
Leading food waste charity, FareShare, has welcomed the funding and said it will also help producers and farmers to offset costs linked to redistributing food.
FareShare chief executive Lindsay Boswell said: “Right now, it actually costs farmers, manufacturers and packers a lot less to dump or recycle fresh, in date food than to redistribute it to good causes – in part because of the cost of keeping the surplus food fit for human consumption.
“With the barriers to charitable food redistribution removed, businesses will no longer be penalised for doing the right thing with their food: using it to feed people.
“We see this fund as principally for food producers and not the supermarkets. The big supermarkets have already invested in charitable redistribution from their stores and this is about supporting their suppliers to do the same.”
In 2017, 205,000t of surplus food was wasted in the retail and food manufacturing sectors, according to the food waste charity Wrap, with around 100,000t of this estimated to be accessible, edible and available for redistribution. Currently, around 43,000t of surplus food is redistributed every year.
Further action to help cut food waste from all sources, including households, is being considered, Gove said.
Elsewhere in his speech, Gove said the Tories “will launch a new front in the war against waste” and “take steps to make recycling easier”, although offered no further detail.
It comes as this week Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson’s video rant on plastic packaging went viral on social media. In a rallying cry for concrete government action, Singh-Watson explained how efforts to recycle are hampered by fragmented kerbside collection processes across the country that discourage both home recycling efforts, and companies’ sustainable packaging policies.
The video has been shared almost 4,000 times on Facebook and Twitter, including by various high-profile food campaigners and academics. Leading food policy expert, Professor Tim Lang, tweeted: “Interested in plastics? Please watch this heartfelt, angry, informative, funny, demanding short video by Guy Singh-Watson. Says it all, really.”