Could complacency be slowing war on food waste?

Whether it’s in the field, production, restaurants, or the home, food waste remains a massive issue – one that’s far from being solved. In fact, recent reports would suggest that, perhaps as a result of complacency, food waste may be on the rise again – in some places. The first week or so of 2017 has seen a splurge of new reports and updates and we’ve rifled through the bin to pick out the tasty morsels that need saving and reading.

First up, some pretty good news! WRAP revealed this week that signatories of the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement (HaFSA) have more than doubled their target and achieved an 11% reduction in food and associated packaging waste – equivalent to 48 million meals and a saving of £67m for the businesses.

Redistribution, according to WRAP, also doubled – to 760 tonnes. Training, monitoring and measuring and shared best practice have all been credited as key factors. However, the group fell short of its second target – to increase recycling to at least 70%. WRAP attributed what might be seen as a disappointing final rate of 56%, to patchy collection services and time required to change contracts.

The last couple of years have seen a proliferation of businesses cashing on the opportunities presented by surplus food. Beer made with ‘waste’ bread, now granola bars made with ‘waste’ from the beer-making process, fruit snacks from surplus fruit. The menu grows – daily it seems.

Just around the corner it could be that there’ll be some even larger scale opportunities as scientists at the universities of Loughborough, York and Nottingham set to work on an £800,000 project to turn what’s known as Unavoidable Food Supply Chain Waste (UFSCW) into something we might want to eat.

Professor Shahin Rahimifard from Loughborough University, said: “This is very exciting research which could see for the first time the creation of new food products for human consumption by upgrading the nutritional content in food waste. It could have a significant impact on global food security.”

So, what of that complacency mentioned at the top of the article? Well, scientists at Ohio State University believe that concerns over food waste appear to vanish when diners know the leftovers are going to be composted. In fact, those in the compost know, so to speak, waste just as much as those who aren’t aware of the issues connected with sending food waste to landfill. The report’s authors stressed the importance of first attempting to limit waste. Composting or donating unused food is great, but buying and preparing only what you’ll eat is better, they concluded. The same rules clearly apply in commercial kitchens.

Could this be a factor in the really disappointing news from WRAP this week that UK households actually produced more food waste in 2015 – up from 7 milllion tonnes to 7.3 million? The rise comes after a number of years in which households have been reducing the amount of food they throw away – in total 1 million tonnes less than in 2007. Lower food prices are one of the main reasons WRAP gives for the rise. Could it also be, that for those people who are now able to recycle their food waste, there’s a sense of complacency that they’re doing their bit?

At the risk of teaching granny to suck eggs, reducing ALWAYS comes first! With consumer and industry targets being missed, food and food prices rising, there’s never been a better time to clamp down on waste.

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