Help for Food Businesses in Driving Down Food Waste

Food waste in the UK totals 10.2 million tonnes per year, of which 1.8m comes from food manufacturing. To put this in context, 1m tonnes comes from the hospitality sector and 260,000 from retail.

DEFRA's response to tackling this included the publication last December of their Resources and Waste Strategy. Also included was the statutory guidance on applying the waste hierarchy to surplus and waste food and drink.£15m has been allocated to a Food Waste Fund to address the problem of surplus food from manufacturing and retail. DEFRA has now distributed £4.2m from this fund between four food redistribution organisations. Applicants for the funding had to demonstrate how they would help food businesses reduce their surplus in the long term. This includes measures such as developing new supply routes from growers and local distributors and improved capacity for repackaging food.


Financial benefits for food businesses

Aside from the environmental considerations, there are of course financial benefits for food businesses in reducing waste and finding practical uses for surplus food or by-products of the manufacturing process. Apart from redistribution, options might include use as a further food product or ingredient. For animal feed, biofuel, compost/fertiliser or, in some cases, development for packaging materials. All of which could save costs or even create an income stream.


Don't ignore the regulations

Whichever option is considered for waste reduction, it's vital to remember rules and regulations on waste management apply equally to food waste as they do any other waste form. It may be necessary for a food business handling their waste to obtain an environmental permit. Alternatively they could register an exemption from permitting requirements.

DEFRA's guidance contains some useful reminders, including:

What's next?

A further round of funding will focus on improving infrastructure for companies to redistribute even more of the food. This equates to 250 million meals - which is edible and readily available but which goes to waste each year. Currently this food is often re-purposed for generating energy from waste, anaerobic digestion or animal feed, rather than being redistributed.

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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