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Articles Environmental Law 17th May 2017

Mixed response to new food waste proposals

A recent report published on food waste in England set out a number of proposals made by the House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

One recommendation which was positively received was that the incoming Government should require food businesses and retailers to separate food waste.

The proposal is via a phased approach, applying first to businesses that produce more than 50kg of food waste per week, then applying to smaller food businesses that produce between 5kg and 50kg of food waste per week.

When it came to a proposal for a mandatory requirement for businesses to separate food waste, Thérèse Coffey, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Life Opportunities, said that she would be watching the impact of similar legislation in Scotland which was introduced in 2012. There is no guarantee that this change will be implemented in England, although in the event that it is, the impact for businesses is likely to be financial and also pose administrative and practical challenges.

Amongst the proposals rejected by the Minister, were:

  • A recommendation for a national food waste target, with this target to be ambitious to ensure continued focus on reducing food waste.
  • A recommendation that food businesses over a certain size are required to publicly report data on food waste to create much more transparency.

Household food waste

Food waste at a household level was also reviewed. The Committee recommended that Local Authorities should aim to offer separate food waste collections to as many households as possible within England. It was recognised that as waste collections must be dealt with at a local level, given the challenges and barriers to each individual area, no legislative reform was recommended.

Tax relief on redistribution of surplus food

Interestingly the Committee’s report also uncovered some tax relief and financial incentives that are not widely known about within the industry, where companies take part in redistribution schemes for surplus food which is still safe for consumption.

Companies can get tax relief on trading stock that is produced but not sold. This includes food donated to charity; the cost of producing trading stock, which is donated, is deducted from their profits before tax is calculated.

It was proposed that the Government should better communicate the current tax breaks or incentives that are available to companies redistributing surplus food. The Committee also recommended that the Government assesses how it might further promote the redistribution of surplus food by additional fiscal measures.

Next steps

As the Committee’s report was published days before Parliament was dissolved on 3rd May 2017 it seems likely that the issues raised will be further looked at by the successor Committee.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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