Veolia joins business ‘Roadmap’ striving to halve food waste

Pictured: A staff member in one of Veolia's energy-from-food-waste facilities

Launched in September 2018 as a collaborative effort between WRAP and IGD, the Roadmap was designed to help large businesses across all parts of the UK’s food value chain to halve food waste across their operations, in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3.

Within a year, the initiative had garnered the support of 156 businesses from the food manufacture, retail, hospitality and service sub-sectors. WRAP, therefore, increased its ambition for the Roadmap; having previously aimed for half of all major food businesses to sign up, the body called in September 2019  for “all major UK food businesses” to commit to act in line with the Roadmap – and to provide evidence they are doing so – by the end of 2026.

Veolia took notice of this call to action and this week became the first recycling and waste firm to sign up to the Roadmap.  

As an “enabling partner” to the Roadmap, Veolia will encourage its clients to use its food waste collection service, which turns waste food into compost, fertiliser or energy, if they are not already doing so. Veolia’s energy-from-food-waste facilities processed 250,000 tonnes of material in 2019, generating 35GWh of electricity and enough biogas to serve 4,000 homes.

Clients already signed up to this service, meanwhile, will be supported to redistribute food which need not be wasted, and to better separate their waste.

In the longer term, Veolia’s chief technology and innovation officer Richard Kirkman said, the firm’s support of the Roadmap may see it introduce new technologies designed to reduce food waste.

“We know that we can all help cut food waste in our day-to-day lives, and we welcome this important move to halve business food waste in the UK,” Kirkman said.

“But it is not always possible to eliminate food waste completely, so to meet [the UK’s net-zero] targets and help mitigate the impact of climate change, it is essential we collect this material and use it as a new resource for generating green energy, and produce valuable organic products such as compost and fertilisers.”

WRAP’s director Peter Maddox praised Veolia’s joining of the Roadmap, suggesting that it will help cement in the minds of professionals and the public alike the links between food waste and climate change.

“Globally, around a third of all food is wasted and the IPCC estimated that food waste contributed nearly 10% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, between 2010 and 2016,” Maddox said.

“Waste management companies like Veolia have an important role to play in helping to mitigate this problem by engaging with their client base.”

Food for thought

Currently, around 1.6 billion tonnes of food goes to waste each year, representing about one-third of the food produced globally by weight, according to Boston Consulting Group.

A report from the Group last year warned that this figure could rise through 2030 without “aggressive” action from national Governments and businesses.

In the UK, at least, action to combat food waste by these actors seems to have taken off in the past 12 months – given the issue’s connections to climate change, community, health and wellbeing, and, ultimately, the economy.

The Government began actively promoting WRAP’s roadmap in May, through a new pledge scheme open to organisations and individuals alike. Called ‘Step Up to the Plate’, the pledge provides a channel for shorter-term action as some of the key measures detailed in the Resources and Waste Strategy are finalised and phased in. The Strategy notably includes plans to require local authorities to provide weekly collections of food waste for every household, and for the introduction of mandatory annual reporting of food waste by food businesses,

Both the pledge and the strategy have received vocal support from major businesses in the sector, including Tesco, Costa Coffee, Cranswick, Nestle, Waitrose & Partners and Sainsbury’s.

Sarah George

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