Money for Nothing or a Waste of Time? How will the Government’s Waste Proposals impact Food and Drink Business?

1 May, 2019

The government’s “Our Waste, Our Resources, A Strategy for England” was published on 18 December 2018, but is it something to ‘cash in on’ or a waste of time, which places an extra burden on the Food and Drink industry?  Like most things this will depend on your perspective but understanding the aims and objectives of the proposals will help Food and Drink businesses manage the risk or take advantages of any opportunities that may arise. 

What are the objectives of the proposals?

The proposals aim to:

  • Preserve the stock of material resources by: 1) minimising waste; 2) promoting resource efficiency and 3) moving away from the traditional linear economic model of ‘take, make, use, throw’ and replacing it with a more circular economy of wasting less, reusing, recycling and repairing more.
  • Minimise the damage caused to the natural environment by reducing and managing waste safely and carefully.
  • Tackle waste crime.

How will this be implemented?

The strategy sets out the following initiatives that will impact the food and drinks industry:

  • The set-up of a pilot scheme to reduce food waste through a £15 million fund.
  • A consultation on annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses.
  • The Environment Agency review of the current rules around permits for food waste storage facilities in 2019 in order to support further redistribution of surplus food.
  • Supporting cross sector collaboration through the Courtauld 2025 agreement which aims to reduce per capita UK food waste by a fifth between 2015 and 2025.
  • Producing and promoting food waste strategies for the hospitality and public sectors.
  • Seeking powers through the Agriculture Bill to protect producers and cut wastage.
  • Promoting the usage of recycled materials and ensuring that packaging is reprocessed and recycled more through the:
    • introduction of a deposit return scheme where consumers are charged a deposit up-front when they buy a drink in a single-use container. The money is then reimbursed when the empty bottle is returned; and
    • proposed reforms to packaging waste producer responsibility regulations.

What impact will this have on Food and Drink Businesses?

At present these are just proposals and a number of consultations are proposed.  However, the direction of travel is clear and Food and Drink businesses should be prepared for a series of measures that are intended to reduce waste.  In particular, we have identified a number of key themes that Food and Drink businesses should be prepared for:

  • A move away from a tonnage-based metric for assessing and reporting on waste to an impact-based approach.
  • Targets to reduce food waste and a requirement to separate food waste from other forms of waste.
  • Taxes on non-recycled or non-recyclable products.
  • Incentives to encourage the reuse, repair or manufacture of items that would otherwise go to landfill.

Whether you view the likely changes as a positive or negative will depend on your individual businesses.  Some businesses may see this as a new opportunity to explore new ways of doing things or interacting with costumers, while others may view this as another hurdle that government is imposing on business; either way change is coming.