Research underpins need for Scottish business leadership on food waste

Scottish businesses have been urged to provide "clear leadership" on food waste, as new research shows that an estimated 1.35 million tonnes of food and drink is wasted in the country each year.

Pioneering research prepared by Zero Waste Scotland has quantified food waste for all sectors of the Scottish economy. The report finds that while households accounted for 44% of the country’s waste in 2013, the majority in fact came from the commercial and industrial sector.

While the overwhelming majority of Scottish businesses are now following environmental regulations, Zero Waste Scotland insists that companies must step up efforts to address expensive supply chain and landfill waste to ensure efficiency and competitiveness.

Zero Waste Scotland chief executive Iain Gulland said: “When we talk about the true scale of food waste in Scotland we need to look at the whole supply chain. Whilst household food waste remains the biggest sector, the fact that over half comes from business and public sector shows that we need clear leadership in these areas to make the transformative change we all want to see.

“Our research shows for the first time the true scale of the challenge we face to achieve Scotland’s ambitious food waste reduction target – but it’s one we are determined to take on together. Tackling the scale of wasted food in our society is an economic, environmental and moral imperative.”

Business support

According to the research, an estimated 740,000 tonnes of solid food and drink waste were produced in commercial and industrial sectors in 2013. Of this amount, the manufacturing industry accounted for around 510,000 tonnes, while the hospitality and retail sectors wasted an estimated combined total of 85,000 tonnes.

Food and drink accounts for approximately 20% of Scotland’s carbon footprint from consumption. To combat this, the Scottish Government recently set an ambitious target to reduce food and drink waste by 33% by 2025 compared to a 2013 baseline. Gulland believes that collaboration with organisations from all sections of the supply chain will help to develop policy options to meet the target.

“We have made a good start,” he said. “Since putting the issue of food waste on the map we have worked to reduce household food waste, resulting in a 6% decrease. We’re also providing small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) with dedicated advice and support to reduce their food waste and related costs.”

Circular dreams

The statistics come amid various attempts from the Scottish Government to deliver high waste reduction across the country. Zero Waste Scotland are currently seeking candidates to apply for the title of Scotland’s third ‘Zero Waste Town’ by demonstrating a commitment to circular economy principles.

SEPA recently published its new environmental regulation strategy, which will set about the task of helping regulated businesses reduce all forms of waste beyond compliance standards in ways that improves profitability and long-term viability.

Earlier this year, the Government unveiled its first ever circular economy strategy, outlining bold plans to significantly reduce the country’s waste in the food and construction sectors and promote recycling and reuse.

George Ogleby

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