Sainsbury's food waste

Sainsbury’s is extending its food waste trial

Dozens of supermarkets and suppliers have written to environment secretary Steve Barclay urging the government to revive the government’s plans for mandatory food waste reporting.

Leading retailers and food companies warned a lack of traceability was contributing to hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food waste and costing the economy more than £20bn a year.

The letter calls for urgent action amid anger that Defra is dithering on the issue. It follows Barclay seemingly making a u-turn in November when it was revealed he was overturning a decision by predecessor Thérèse Coffey to scrap plans for mandatory food waste reporting, which were first set out by Michael Gove in 2018.

Last month, The Grocer revealed Defra had launched a new consultation with large food companies and hospitality businesses over the plans and asked for “additional evidence” on the potential cost implications of measuring and reporting.

However, this week’s letter warns the cost of not bringing in the measures would far outweigh any costs to the industry of extra reporting.

“We have now reached the point where there is a greater opportunity cost of not introducing mandatory food waste reporting than any real costs resulting from the policy, financial or otherwise,” says the letter, signed by companies including Aldi, Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Danone and Nestlé.

“With more than a third of all food produced currently going to waste, the urgency of tackling food waste has been recognised across the food sector. Food waste contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and pre and post farmgate food waste costs £21.8bn annually to the UK economy.

“While acknowledging the progress made under the Courtauld Commitment and other initiatives, these companies emphasise the necessity of mandatory reporting to drive meaningful change and encourage more action to be taken across the industry – through more data-driven strategies, driving efficiencies, and fostering collaboration and economic growth.”

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, which led on the open letter along with Too Good To Go, said: Mandatory food waste reporting is a key step in reducing food waste, helping retailers to understand their waste hotspots and where surplus food can be redistributed.

“While most retailers already report voluntarily through Wrap’s Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, mandatory reporting will enable greater transparency across the supply chain. Retailers will continue to engage with the government to ensure that the system works for all stakeholders, and that it aligns across the four UK nations.”

Aldi UK national sustainability director Liz Fox said: “It is important that we tackle the critical issue of food waste as an industry, and mandatory food waste reporting would be a significant step forward in doing just that. 

“Food waste reporting, and analysing opportunities for improvements, has already helped us achieve one of our food waste targets early – and allowed us to be even bolder in setting a new waste reduction goal.”

The letter comes with supermarkets due to attend a summit this week to discuss how to accelerate moves to tackle food waste and the war on plastic, including a call by Wrap for a big increase in fruit & veg sold loose in supermarkets.

Wrap is also calling for the government to introduce mandatory moves on packaging to ban plastic on dozens of key fresh products.