Defra quietly delays food waste reporting mandate for businesses

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed the delay late last week as part of a sweeping update on its 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy.

Consultations on several key pieces of the Strategy, which was the first major update to policymaking in this field for a decade, have been delayed amid Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis.

A consultation on mandatory food waste reporting requirement for large British businesses was among the affected aspects of the Strategy. Consultations closed a year ago and industry bodies began pressing for answers earlier this month.

Defra has chosen not to mandate disclosures until the end of 2026 at the earliest, despite 80% of consultation respondents saying they would be in favour of a mandate. Instead, it will work with the industry to increase voluntary reporting, which has been increasing in recent years.

Defra notes in its response that dozens of businesses are now signed up to WRAP’s food waste reduction roadmap, which requires annual reporting and collaborative efforts to reduce waste. Retailers participating have reduced waste by 8% since 2018. The reduction for producers and manufacturers has been 1.4%.

Redistribution has been an increasingly popular practice for businesses amid the pandemic and current economic outlook. Rates have trebled since 2018, Defra estimates, as businesses strive to not only reduce waste but to serve vulnerable people in their communities.

Too Good to Go co-founder Jamie Crummie said he recieved today’s news “with a heavy heart” and called the decision “disheartening and regressive”.

Crummie said: “Neglecting food waste reduction has far-reaching global consequences, with food waste contributing 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing even the aviation industry’s impact.”

Also reacting to the news, Company Shop Group’s managing director Owen McLellan said: “Whether reporting is mandated or remains voluntary, having access to more robust and transparent data would support all of us in reducing food waste.”

Company Shop Group is the UK’s largest redistribution organisation and provides surplus food, drink and household staples at a steep discount through its nationwide network of stores.

McLellan added: “We would encourage businesses to make the most of the voluntary period and prepare for future regulation by improving their own visibility of waste, and ensuring they have sustainable redistribution processes in place.

“We regularly see the strongest improvements being made by businesses that understand the scale and nature of surplus and waste in their organisations. Those that have visibility in place have not only reduced their waste footprint, but have unlocked the financial, environmental and social benefits of surplus food redistribution.”

Action at home

The UK Government has a target to halve food waste per capita by 2030, against a 2007 baseline. A reduction of 21% has been recorded so far.

The majority (70%) of food wasted in the UK occurs at the consumer level, mainly in households. As such, Defra is planning to spend more than £1m this financial year on consumer campaigns designed to help homes waste less food.

But it is also continuing to delay the delivery of weekly food waste collections for all homes in England. This was first promised to launch in 2023 but will now not be complete until new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements for packaging are in place. This scheme was delayed until October 2025 recently.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie