Environment MEPs back calls for “ambitious” mandatory food waste targets
Zoe Stennett-Cox, Vacherin’s lead on sustainability and corporate social responsibility

Environment MEPs back calls for “ambitious” mandatory food waste targets

Ganor Sel
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MEP Borzan
MEP Biljana Borzan

MEPs have unanimously voted to adopt a report which calls for member states to halve Europe’s 88 millions tonnes of food waste per year by 2030, urges the European Commission to lift restrictions for food donations and create a simpler system to replace “best before” dates and “use by” labelling.

Environment committee politicians voted earlier today (April 11) to adopt MEP Biljana Borzan’s food waste report which details how food is wasted throughout the supply chain and called on European countries to achieve a 30% food waste reduction by 2025, and 50% five years later.

This follows an earlier vote last month where Parliament set out its waste legislation and it will now go to a vote in the full House next month during a plenary session in Strasbourg.

“In developed countries food is wasted mostly at the end of the chain, at distribution and consumption. Everyone has a responsibility to tackle this problem”, said Borzan (S&D, HR).

“My report calls for a coordinated policy response on labelling, liability and education, as most consumers do not understand the precise meaning of “best before” and “use by” labelling”.

“Moreover, we should address the shortcomings of existing EU legislation where it hinders food donations. We need to update our common VAT system to allow for tax exemptions. A form of “good Samaritan” legislation at EU level could lead to greater volumes of food being donated and reducing food being wasted, without compromising current standards of food safety”, she added.

Food waste in the foodservice industry

Meanwhile PBUK speaks with Zoe Stennett-Cox, the lead on sustainability and corporate social responsibility at specialist London-based caterer Vacherin Ltd. She goes through some of the latest food waste initiatives happening within Vacherin’s network and details what the UK industry can do to step up as the European Parliament strengthens its commitment to the ambitious food waste targets.

“The foodservice industry can often be overlooked as focus is placed on supermarkets and big retailers, but we are a key player in the food and drink industry and all organisations must play their part in managing resources sustainably,” she says.

“There is still a long way to go across the industry, but progress has to start with measurement and benchmarking. Understanding what waste you’re creating and where this is coming from, then work backwards from there to identify areas where improvements can be made.

“Where can you make an impact? And what can you do to realise that impact?”

Asking the right questions, setting measurable, ambitious targets and reporting back on progress made, is key to building up the right kind of mindset towards food waste and ensuring it permeates throughout the company.

“Improvements could be through staff training – at Vacherin, we train our chefs to cook efficiently and to work with surplus food. All of our staff receive sustainability inductions to understand the importance of resource efficiency.

“We also conduct bi-annual waste audits to keep on top of exactly what waste we’re creating, where it’s coming from and where it’s going to. We then report these figures to our clients and work with on-site teams to develop action plans for improvement.

“Collaboration is also key; working together with staff, clients, customers, suppliers and external organisations helps you reach your end goal faster.”

Brexit doesn’t really make a difference in the case of food waste as it’s highly unlikely Britain would opt out of food waste targets and initiatives, even if it was no longer part of any official legislative measures.

Vacherin believes UK caterers need to embrace the food waste target of a 50% reduction by 2050 right through the supply chain, irrespective of when the UK officially exits the European Union.

The movement of organisations involved in cutting food waste is growing constantly with 48 current organisations from across 16 countries – led by UK-based This is Rubbish – urging consumers to get behind tougher actions and call for legally binding targets of food waste, according to Stennett-Cox.

Vacherin has a plan and has publicly pledged to increase successes in three major areas;

–  It recycles all used rapeseed oil through its suppliers which gets returned to the farm and used a bio-diesel for agricultural vehicles. Recycling more than 6,000 litres in the last year.

– It works with Bio Bean to recycle used coffee grounds to make high performance bio-fuels. Recycling now happens at over one third of Vacherin’s sites with a record 5,600kg recycles last year.

– Vacherin also collaborates with fruit and vegetable suppliers to divert cosmetically imperfect produce from being wasted by bringing it into sites and “celebrating it” on menus in items like soups, smoothies, juices or stocks. Last year, almost 4000kg of fruit and veg, that would otherwise have been wasted, was used.

“Food is the main resource of a foodservice company, so it makes perfect commercial sense to be resource efficient with it. The environmental benefits are compelling enough, but it actually saves us money if we can be more efficient with our food and waste less,” adds Stennett-Cox.

“Vacherin has been able to demonstrate that taking a proactive approach to sustainability goes hand-in-hand with financial growth. We have seen year-on-year growth in turnover throughout our 14 years of operations and have achieved this while maintaining our strong commitment to sustainability.”

European statistics

In the EU, food waste has been estimated at some 88 million tonnes, or 173 kg per capita per year. The production and disposal of this food waste leads to the emission of 170 million tonnes of CO2 and consumes 261 million tonnes of resources.

The highest food waste occurs in the Netherlands (541 kg per capita and per year) and Belgium (345 kg), the lowest in Slovenia (72kg) Malta and Romania (76kg).

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