Steve Barclay to “reconsider” mandatory food waste reporting


Steve Barclay

On 21 November, the UK government withdrew its previous response to its consultation on mandatory food waste reporting saying the Environment Secretary will now “reconsider” a mandate.

A Defra spokesperson told Circular Online: “We remain committed to tackling food waste and the new Secretary of State has decided to look again at how best to secure the benefits of food waste reporting, including mandatory measures. We intend to gather further evidence and reconsider all options using the latest available data.”

In a wide-ranging update to its 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced it will not mandate waste measurement and reporting for large food businesses until 2026, despite 80% of respondents to a 2022 consultation being in favour of a mandate for large food businesses.

Despite the high levels of support, the UK Government said it considered the costs of introducing regulation for food waste reporting to be too high. However, Defra has now said the new Secretary of State Steve Barclay will reconsider whether there should be mandatory food waste reporting in the future.

Former Health Secretary Steve Barclay was appointed as the new Environment Secretary, replacing Thérèse Coffey, last week (13 November). He became the fifth Environment Secretary in four years following Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle.

CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management) welcomed the review by the new Environment Secretary “given the support for mandatory food waste reporting in the consultation responses”.

In total 3,851 respondents participated in the original consultation – 3,728 were individuals participating in a campaign organised by Feedback, a UK and Netherlands-based environmental campaign group.

All the evidence supports the case for mandatory food waste reporting.

Executive Director Carina Millstone, says Feedback are delighted Steve Barclay has “u-turned on his predecessor’s reckless decision”.

In a statement given to Circular Online, Millstone said: “However, we cannot allow Defra to kick action on food waste into the long grass, yet again. All the evidence supports the case for mandatory food waste reporting.

“The government’s climate and waste experts recommend it, the impact assessment shows it will result in cost savings, and the vast majority of consultation respondents, including the majority of businesses, are in favour.”

In September, Feedback launched a legal challenge to the UK government’s original decision to keep a voluntary system for food waste measurement and reporting. The NGO sent a pre-action protocol letter to the then Defra Secretary Thérèse Coffey, which signalled the start of the judicial review process.

The campaign group has also claimed the consultation on whether to introduce mandatory measuring and reporting of food waste was unlawful because Defra’s decision was not based on a “reasonable or rational” view of the evidence.

Surplus food app Too Good To Go also expressed “concerns and disappointment” following the original response, calling it a “significant blow” to the UK’s efforts to reduce food waste.

Jamie Crummie, co-founder of social impact company Too Good To Go, said it’s encouraged by the announcement from Defra.

He commented: “Food waste is no minor problem. There is no time for delay, and we implore the government to act swiftly and decisively – our environment, economy, and citizens’ well-being depend on it. We look forward to being involved in the new consultation process.”

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