Feedback launches legal challenge to decision not to require food waste reporting
Food industry environmental campaigners have launched a legal challenge to the government’s decision to stick with a voluntary system for food waste measurement and reporting.
Posted on 14 September 2023
Feedback says the food industry should be made to report how much food is going to waste. The campaign group says the costs of such a system would prove cheaper for shoppers and dramatically cut food waste which currently amounts to at least 9.5 million tonnes a year. More than two-thirds of that waste is edible and 165,000 tonnes is suitable for redistribution.
The current voluntary approach to food waste reporting has collectively saved 251,000 tonnes of food from going to waste, worth £365 million, since 2005. This figure could only be improved if the measuring and reporting were mandatory, says Feedback.
Following the publication of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) response to a consultation on the question of mandatory reporting of food waste, Feedback has written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with a pre-action protocol letter, signalling the start of the judicial review process.
Defra’s response to the consultation suggests it is in favour of sticking with a voluntary system of reporting because of the “high costs” of a mandatory system.
Feedback says this approach is irrational: measuring food waste improves data, which in turn helps businesses to spot opportunities to cut food waste; several studies have shown that there is a £14 return for every £1 that businesses spend on cutting food waste; only 0.25% of the total food now being wasted would have to be cut to offset the costs of introducing a mandatory measurement and reporting system.
Feedback says the consultation on whether to introduce mandatory measuring and reporting of food waste was unlawful because Defra’s resulting decision was not based on a reasonable or rational view of the evidence.
There was also a failure to take into account the advice of expert bodies such as the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and WRAP, a climate action NGO entrusted by Defra with the task of administering the voluntary programme to reduce food waste since 2005. In its Sixth Carbon Budget Report the CCC advised that mandatory reporting should be introduced by 2022 to build on WRAP’s existing voluntary scheme and noted that food waste remains one of the biggest sources of emissions in the waste sector. WRAP says there needs to be a regulatory framework to complement the voluntary scheme to boost numbers of participants.
Feedback is represented in its legal challenge by law firm Leigh Day.
Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, said:
“The government's decision to scrap its plans to introduce mandatory food waste reporting for large and medium businesses is perplexing at best, and potentially illegal at worst. Our lawyers’ letter to the Secretary of State sets out why she must reverse her decision, which flagrantly ignores her own evidence, the advice of her own experts and the preference of the vast majority of consultation respondents. Mandatory food waste reporting is a no-brainer, and the government can’t simply ditch it if it is to tackle the climate emergency.”
Leigh Day solicitor Ricardo Gama said:
“The government has decided to continue with a voluntary food waste reporting scheme even though all the expert advice said that voluntary measures aren’t working. That includes advice from the Climate Change Committee, who have said that mandatory food waste reporting should have been introduced by 2022 in order for the UK to stay on the Balanced Net Zero Pathway. All the evidence shows that the costs to the shopper of introducing a mandatory requirement will be massively outweighed by savings which would be achieved by reductions in food waste. Our clients say it is impossible to see how the government’s decision can be based on a rational reading of the evidence.”
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