Freeths law firm offer up their “quick guide” to the UK Government’s consultation on improved reporting of food waste by large food businesses in England.
Hot on the heels of the Government food strategy comes the Consultation on improved reporting of food waste by large food businesses in England Date: June 2022
It may feel like we’re drowning in consultations in the food and waste sectors. Setting aside the purely waste related consultations, in the food sector we have:
- Waste tracking: relating to the Government’s intention to legislate to make waste transfer records digital and mandatory
- Separate food waste collections: Through requirements in the Environment Act 2021, businesses and other organisations in England will be required to arrange for the separate collection of a core set of materials, including the separate collection of food waste.
- Public sector food and catering policy: Proposed changes to public sector food and catering policy, including the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services are being consulted on in parallel.
Consultation opened on 13 Jun 2022 and closes 5 Sep 2022.
Any regulations would come into force in April 2024 with large businesses being required to measure food waste from that point and report the first set of data at the end of the 24/25 financial year.
- WHY IS REPORTING OF FOOD WASTE REQUIRED?
The background to the Consultation summarises that unnecessary food waste is inefficient, pushing up the price of food for consumers and businesses, whilst undermining our national self-sufficiency. Reducing food waste can help food businesses cut costs, which can be passed onto customers, and identify food that could be redistributed to the most vulnerable. Furthermore, food waste damages the earth’s ecosystems; globally, one third of edible food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. A fifth of territorial UK greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food and drink, mostly created during production (agriculture and manufacturing) and these are needless emissions if the food and drink are subsequently wasted. The environmental impact of UK food waste is estimated at more than 25 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions every year
Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP, has commented that “More than 200 large food businesses already measure their food waste as part of the WRAP-IGD Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and are realising both financial and environmental benefits by minimising that wastage. We welcome the proposal to extend this with a consultation on improved reporting for larger businesses. We estimate a further 400 food businesses could be brought onboard. The availability of robust data is core to businesses achieving climate and other environmental goals”
Although there are a significant number of businesses currently signed up to the Roadmap, it’s a purely voluntary scheme which allows businesses to self-regulate by measuring and reporting food surplus and waste. The proposed changes with the introduction of mandatory reporting may be perceived as more stick than carrot and will represent an additional regulatory responsibility.
- TYPES OF BUSINESSES IN SCOPE
The proposal for obligatory food waste reporting would catch all food businesses that are considered to be large under the Companies Act 2006 and that operate in England i.e.
- Annual turnover of £36m
- Annual balance sheet total of £18m
- 250 employees
The Consultation states that the focus is on large businesses as the Government believes (i) they have the capacity and resources to measure and report on their food waste and (ii) that reporting by large-sized businesses would result in approximately 67% of food waste produced by businesses in the supply chain being reported and accounted for.
In terms of what is a “food business”, the Consultation suggests:
- Food packing business
- Food manufacturers
- Food wholesalers
- Food retailers
- Hospitality and food service (restaurants, pubs, quick service restaurants, takeaways)
- Internet-based organisations that manage, distribute or produce food
- Commercial food redistribution organisations
Examples are given of where 2 food business are working together (e.g. a packing business working with a food manufacturer) and only one of those businesses is a large business i.e. in scope. In that situation, the business in scope would be responsible for quantifying and reporting the (i) surplus and (ii) waste. Where both businesses are in scope for size, the brand/product owner of the food would be responsible for reporting the surplus and waste which occurs during contract packing. This would involve liaising with the packer to quantify the volume of food waste. In this scenario, the packing business would not report food waste that would be reported by the brand/product owner to avoid double counting.
- MATERIAL IN SCOPE TO BE REPORTED
The Government proposes that large food businesses report on the food surplus and waste they have produced and where it has been sent. Suggestions as to destinations / processes are included e.g.:
- Redistribution for human consumption
- Animal feed
- Anaerobic digestion/codigestion
- Composting/aerobic processes
- METHOD OF REPORTING
The Government’s proposal is to use a reporting template similar to the one used in the FWRR (Food Waste Reduction Roadmap) and that the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 (EPRs) would be amended to require in scope food businesses to report their food
waste data to the Environment Agency (the “Regulator” in this case). The production of food waste by businesses of a certain size would be classified as a “regulated facility” under the EPRs. However, that class of facility would be exempt from the requirement to obtain an environmental permit and would be classed as an exempt facility. The organisation producing the food waste would need to register their “exemption” with the Regulator. The Regulator would be responsible for ensuring that businesses in scope register their exemption from the requirement to have an environmental permit. A condition of their exemption would be to report their food waste data in the reporting period (proposed as within 3 months of the end of the financial year).
- COSTS AND IMPACTS
Aligning with the polluter pays principle, the Government proposes that the Regulator would implement a charging scheme which would require food businesses in scope to pay a fee when registering their permit exemption. This fee would cover the operational costs of the Regulator to ensure that the responsibility for costs is designated to the businesses which produce food waste rather than using public funds. This annual fee is estimated to be £684 per business and it is noted that the Regulator would consult on the detail of any such charging scheme at a later date. But given the current economic pressures facing food businesses, with inflationary cost pressures (of note the fragile state of the hospitality industry post pandemic) further regulatory costs are unlikely to be welcomed.
Where an offence has occurred, the Regulator would apply its enforcement and sanction policy to determine the most appropriate response. Currently, under the EPRs, the following sanctions are available:
- Formal caution
If you would like more information on anything above, please contact: