Defra launches £5m food redistribution scheme to help businesses slash waste

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today (11 January) launched a new £5m scheme aimed at helping UK businesses to redistribute surplus food and minimise their food waste outputs.

Around 43,000 tonnes of surplus food is currently redistributed from retailers and food manufacturers every year - but the Government wants to increase this amount by 100,000 tonnes

Around 43,000 tonnes of surplus food is currently redistributed from retailers and food manufacturers every year - but the Government wants to increase this amount by 100,000 tonnes

Under the scheme, food and drink redistribution firms across England will be able to bid for their share of the £5m fund.

Applicants will be asked to demonstrate how financial barriers are currently preventing them from distributing surplus food fit for human consumption to the maximum number of people possible for the size of their organisation.

They will also be required to show how extra funding could help them with long-term redistribution plans, and what impact this could have on partner businesses’ food waste footprints.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said the funding will help “turbocharge” efforts to reduce the UK’s post-farm food waste mountain, which currently stands at 10.2 million tonnes each year.

“It is absolutely right that we end the scandal of food waste and this substantial funding will help that happen,” Coffey said.

“We want to build on the great work already being done by businesses, charities and volunteers. Perfectly good food should be on people’s plates and not unnecessarily discarded.”

The scheme forms part of the Government’s £15m plan to help redistribute almost £1bn worth of food waste from supermarkets, other retailers and manufacturers each year. The aim of the plan, which will be completed by early 2020,  is to ensure that the entirety of food waste accounted for at a manufacturing or retail level is made available to those in need.

Food waste: A tough nut to crack

Around 43,000 tonnes of surplus food is currently redistributed from retailers and food manufacturers every year, but the Government estimates that a further 100,000 tonnes are sent to be converted into energy from waste (EfW), included in animal feed or anaerobically digested annually.

Consumers are believed to account for an even larger portion of the UK’s food waste output, with the latest research from WRAP concluding that domestic food waste accounted for 70% of the UK’s total in 2017.

In response to the issue, which has reached such a scale that the equivalent of 250 million edible meals is being binned in the UK every year, the Government this month appointed a food surplus and waste champion for the first time. The new position is held by Ben Elliot, a philanthropist and co-founder of the lifestyle group Quintessentially, who will be tasked with spurring national progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

Defra has additionally placed an increased focus on food waste in its new Resources and Waste Strategy, which was published last month. The 136-page document outlines plans to provide weekly collections of food waste for every UK household, and to introduce mandatory food waste reporting measures for businesses within the food and drink sector.

The business community has also made strong progress towards tackling the issue in recent times, with the likes of Asda, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s among the 157 organisations committed to achieving a 20% reduction in food waste and greenhouse gas emissions through WRAP’s Courtauld 2025 Commitment.

Elsewhere, Lidl recently told social platform Neighbourly that it would be keen to redistribute more of its food waste abroad, while the Co-op has banned 'last-minute' sales of fresh produce and moved to sell tinned goods and dried foods which are past their best-before date for as little as 10p.

Sarah George


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