UK Government could face court over failure to implement mandatory food waste reporting requirements

Food loss and waste is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) first floated such a mandate in the Resources and Waste Strategy in 2018.

Several key policy changes included in the Strategy were delayed during Covid-19 and, back in July this year, Defra confirmed that it would shelve the implementation of compulsory food waste disclosures for businesses including supermarkets and restaurant chains.

The Department said that the mandate will come into force at the end of 2026 at the earliest. This is despite 80% of respondents to consultations on the matter supporting a mandate in the near-term.

Defra defended this decision by stating that it never promised to implement the policy – only to consult on it. The Department also pointed to increasing disclosures in the industry made on a voluntary basis.

Feedback is questioning the legality of this decision on the grounds that Defra’s decision is “not based on a reasonable or rational view of the evidence it received” through consultations with the industry.

The group is also asking a judge to assess whether the decision is compatible with the UK’s legally binding climate commitments.

The UK Government’s independent advisory body, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), has repeatedly called for additional policy interventions to tackle food waste across the value chain. It had recommended the introduction of a food waste reporting mandate by 2022.

Feedback’s executive director Carina Millstone said that Defra, in this case, “ignored its own impact assessment, the advice of waste and climate experts, and the preference of the vast majority of consultation respondents”.

Leigh Day solicitor Ricardo Gama, part of the team representing Feedback in the legal proceedings, said: “Our clients say it is impossible to see how the Government’s decision can be based on a rational reading of the evidence.

“The Government has decided to continue with a voluntary food waste reporting scheme even though all the expert advice said that voluntary measures aren’t working.

“That includes advice from the CCC, who have said that mandatory food waste reporting should have been introduced by 2022 in order for the UK to stay on the Balanced Net Zero Pathway. All the evidence shows that the costs to the shopper of introducing a mandatory requirement will be massively outweighed by savings which would be achieved by reductions in food waste.”

The application for a judicial review will now be considered by a judge who will decide within a few months whether the case will proceed to a judicial review. Feedback is Crowdfunding to cover legal costs while it awaits this decision.

edie has reached out to Defra for a comment. This article will be updated as and when we receive a response.

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