Figures released this week show that increased efforts to redistribute food in the UK mean that enough food to create 133 million meals was saved last year.
The government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) released the statistics, which also show that the amount of surplus food being redistributed doubled between 2015 and 2018.
The value of the redirected food was £166 million in 2018 – an increase of £81 million from three years earlier. The food was mostly redistributed by charities and the biggest increase in supply came from the retail sector, Wrap’s report says.
Some of the UK's leading supermarkets and retail giants first committed to supporting the scheme back in Sept. 2018, and pledged to halve food waste by 2030. The pledge came with £15m from the government to help organisations with the task – £6m of which became newly available this week. Food redristrubution organisations can bid for to help the retail and manufacturing sector cut back on throwing food away.
A joint effort is needed by all parts of the food sector to combat the issue. The kinds of things the money can help with include improving weighing equipment, storage solutions, warehouses, industrial freezers, and labelling equipment and vehicles to help more food get saved, stored, and then redistributed.
The environment secretary, Michael Gove, said food waste was an “environmental, economic and moral scandal".
“Every year, millions of tonnes of good, nutritious food is thrown away... I urge businesses to join me in signing the pledge to deliver real change to stop good food going to waste,” Gove said in a speech this week, speaking at a food symposium at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
The symposium was held ahead of an exhibition starting at the V&A on May 18 called Food: Bigger Than the Plate, which will explore the future of sustainable food.
Speaking at the same event, the government’s ‘Food Surplus and Waste champion’, Ben Elliot, said: “We squander 10 million tonnes of food and drink every year."
"Businesses throw away food worth an estimated £5 billion, and £15 billion is wasted from our homes (on average around £500 a year), the emissions this creates is the equivalent of every third car on the road," he said. "We simply must put an end to this.”
Industry and high-profile attendees — including some of the country's leading retailers and supermarkets, like Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Nestlé — at the V&A event were encouraged to get involved in the pledge to halve food waste in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The roadmap designed at the start of the initiative aims to have all major UK retailers, and half of the country’s top 250 producers and suppliers, signed up to take action on food waste by Sept. 2019, and all of them signed up by 2026.
The report from Wrap says there’s still a long way to go – with a potential 190,000 tonnes of food still wasted that could be redistrubuted. But this report shows that progress has been made and hopefully will continue at a the rate needed to hit those goals.