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Food waste in England inquiry launched

11 July 2016

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee launches an inquiry into the economic, social, and environmental impact of food waste in England.

In the UK, approximately 8 million tonnes of food is wasted post-manufacture, including households, retail and wholesale and hospitality/food sector. 60% of this could have been avoided. This has an annual value of approximately £16 billion a year.

Terms of reference

The Committee will examine the economic, environmental and social impacts of food waste with a focus on consumers, the retail and hospitality sectors, and local government. 

In particular, the Committee will ask how far voluntary initiatives can further reduce food waste or if legislation is required in this area.

The manufacturing and agriculture sectors are outside the scope of the inquiry.

The Committee is inviting written evidence. Key questions for the Food Waste inquiry are:

  • What is the economic, environmental and social impact of food waste in England?
  • What measures could be most effective in reducing food waste by retailers, the hospitality sector, local government, and consumers? These can include redistribution, recycling and recovery, and improved packaging and labelling.
  • What proposals are necessary to further reduce food waste?
  • How effective are existing voluntary initiatives in England and is there a need for legislation?
  • What are the comparative approaches to reducing and managing food waste in the devolved nations, and across Europe?

Send a written submission

Written evidence should be submitted online via the food waste in England inquiry page. As a guideline, submissions should be no longer than 3000 words. The Committee values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence.

Deadline for submissions

The Committee asks for written submissions in accordance with the guidelines by Tuesday 13 September 2016.

Household and retail food waste

Although food waste occurs at all stages of the supply chain (and some food waste is avoidable), 85% of food waste post-manufacture comes from our homes. Research shows that the average family (i.e. a household containing children) spends £700 a year on food that is wasted.

At retail level, recent data suggests that 0.2 million tonnes of edible food and drink goes to waste annually, costing the industry £0.65 billion. The drivers leading to food waste are complex and varied.

Contributory factors

Contributory factors in the supply chain include quality standards, damage to products, and difficult-to-predict demand for certain foods. In the home, food waste can be generated as a result of people's busy lives, difficulties in managing food in the home and people not realising the quantity and value of what they throw away.

Environmental cost

Added to this is the environmental cost. The production, distribution, and preparation of food generates greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. It is estimated that eliminating household food waste could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 million tonnes CO2eq. per year.

Chair's comment

On launching its inquiry, Chair of the EFRA committee, Neil Parish, said:

"Despite the progress made reducing food waste along the supply chain, the amount of reusable, recyclable food that we throw away in the UK is still staggeringly high. Of the estimated 7 million tonnes we discard from our homes each year, nearly half is edible. Not only does this have an impact on the family purse, but the environmental cost is equally heavy. We will be asking what more can be done to reduce food waste and this needless expense to our households."

Further information

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