Lawyers representing environmental campaign group Feedback have written to Defra secretary Thérèse Coffey as they look to launch legal proceedings against the department for failing to take meaningful action to tackle food waste.
The move follows the government’s baffling decision to scrap plans to introduce mandatory food waste reporting, despite widespread support for the policy.
The challenge is being brought on grounds that the government’s decision is not based on a “reasonable or rational view of the evidence it received”.
The legal letter, supported by a coalition of social enterprises including Toast Ale and Olio, argues that the government appears to have ignored expert advice, including from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and resources charity Wrap, which has been struggling to encourage businesses to report through its voluntary scheme. The CCC advised that mandatory reporting should be introduced by 2022. Wrap said it has “always outlined the benefits possible from mandatory food waste reporting in encouraging more businesses to act”.
There was also strong support from the public and industry. Stripping out the individuals who participated en masse via a campaign organised by Feedback, 80% of consultation respondents were in favour of making food waste measurement and reporting mandatory for large food businesses. This included a large majority of businesses from the hospitality and foodservice (73%) and retail (79%) sectors. Manufacturers were more circumspect but 45% still voted for mandatory measures.
WSH’s director of sustainable business Mike Hanson described the U-turn as “absolutely staggering and a scandalous dereliction of duty”.
Using figures from the government’s own impact assessment for the proposal, Feedback have also calculated that if mandatory food waste reporting in England led to just a 1% reduction in food waste in large and medium sized food businesses, this would result in net total savings to businesses of an estimated £24.4m per year. These net savings would rise to an estimated £167m a year with a 5% reduction in food waste, and an estimated £703m a year with a still relatively conservative 20% reduction in food waste – representing potential savings of £120,000 to £460,000 per business annually.
Olivia Blake MP for Sheffield, Hallam has this week tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the introduction of mandatory food waste reporting for medium and large businesses, for the whole supply chain.