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Appetite for action on food waste

The national impetus to reduce food waste, being led by the Scottish Government, cranked up a notch last week with the announcement by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead at this year’s Scottish Resources Conference of his intention to set a national target on food waste reduction

Iain Gulland | 16 Oct 15

This is a landmark policy which we believe would make Scotland the first European nation to set such a target.

There has been considerable success in Scotland over recent years already. A key focus has been on persuading families to think more carefully about how they buy and use food – from a national Government-led campaign, to the continuing PR and social media activity via Zero Waste Scotland’s Love Food, Hate Waste campaign.

This campaigning resulted in some good news which the Cabinet Secretary delivered at this year’s Resources conference – figures from Zero Waste Scotland and WRAP revealed that since 2009, household food waste in Scotland has fallen by 37,000 tonnes, saving families an estimated £92million a year.  A reduction of this scale in avoidable food waste saves around 140,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

All of this has been complemented by engagement with the food and drink industry and in particular the hospitality sector where bespoke support to reduce food waste has been given to individual businesses through our Resource Efficient Scotland programme.

But, as Mr Lochhead made plain, now is not the time to get complacent. There is much more room to improve in Scotland.  Food waste globally is rising at the same time the population is rising. Worldwide, a staggering 2bn tonnes of food is thrown away every year – something we simply cannot afford to do if we want to ensure adequate food for all, and we want to protect our environment – food waste has a significant climate-changing impact.

So the talk is turning to targets and by announcing an intent to set one here, Scotland is putting down an important marker for other nations to follow.

And we might be the first of several. As EU official Kestutis Sadauskas said in his keynote address on day two of the conference he is a, “strong believer in targets… they give clarity and predictability to stakeholders.” He also reiterated that the general public, across European territories, wants to see action to tackle the scandal of food waste.

By combining a strong policy lead with compelling public campaigning, we can make further strides in Scotland in tackling the scourge of food waste – and perhaps, show other nations all they need is the appetite to do so. 

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