This week is WRAP’s Food Waste Action Week 2023, the tag line for which is ‘Win It. Don’t Bin It’, encouraging individuals to make the most of the food they have, saving time and money. WRAP’s campaign feeds directly into the UN Development Goal of ‘Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns’, part of which is an aim to halve global food waste at retail and consumer levels by 2030. The North East Climate Coalition’s (NEECCo) Waste and Resources Planning Group is looking to add value to this mission, and is placing its focus on reducing food waste in the North East and the role this will play in their goal to become England’s greenest region.
WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign states that if we stopped throwing away bread, it could have the same impact on greenhouse gas emissions as planting 5.3 million trees. Currently, an estimated one in three foods produced around the world gets thrown away, and 17% of the total food produced is wasted at the consumer level. Not only is this generating more physical waste, but it also wastes all the energy, resources and water that has been used to produce that product. Statistics such as this one make it clear as to why preventing food waste plays a crucial role in protecting the environment and fighting climate change. For Food Waste Action Week, NEECCo want to highlight the environmental benefits of WRAP’s campaign ‘Win It. Don’t Bin It.’ It’s about making the most of the produce we have, rather than just producing more of what we don’t need.
NEECCo’s Waste and Resources Planning Group is made up of a variety of stakeholders, from VCSE organisations working directly with the community, to Local Authorities in the North East, Private Sector Waste Companies and the University of Newcastle. Acknowledging the impact that food waste has when it comes to climate change, NEECCo are choosing to focus on how they can add value to the regional efforts to reduce food waste. The benefit of having such varied participants and contributors within the planning group is being able to get a holistic understanding of the issues and solutions available, and prioritise actions which are going to most beneficial to establishing a culture of sustainability within the city.
Speaking to Jo Holmes, Executive Member of the North East England Climate Coalition, on the importance of tackling food waste and its connection to the climate crisis, Jo noted, “Looking at the waste hierarchy, the best way to reduce the carbon impact of food waste is to not produce it in the first place. We want to add value to the existing food waste reduction efforts of organisations and local authorities in the North East to assist a transition to a new food waste normal, such as kerbside food waste collections”.
The shift from a throwaway society and move towards a circular economy in the interest of environmental sustainability, is the driving factor behind upcoming food waste regulations in the U.K. Under the new measures, those in the hospitality sector and food service organisations will be required to separate their food waste from their general waste, and have this collected separately. As Jo noted, prevention is the priority when looking at the waste hierarchy, but this is not always possible for businesses as the personal responsibility of the consumer is also a factor. However, this new legislation may be the driving factor for many businesses to develop a strategy which identifies and measures their food surplus and waste, and adopt effective methods to reduce this before reaching the consumer.
In support of their focus of food waste, NEECCo have set a target for the North East to have the lowest food waste production per head of population in the UK. This might seem like a tall order, as according to REfUSE, the North East alone currently produces over 800,000 tonnes of food waste every year. However, NEECCo’s network spans multiple organisations all adding unique value to the cause. While we currently have a wasteful food system in the U.K., NEECCo wants to be part of the solution for the North East and will use Food Waste Action Week to highlight the importance of reducing food waste when it comes to the climate crisis.