The government has shown it is prioritising the “scandal” of food waste in the UK as we move into 2019, as environment secretary Michael Gove appoints a new food waste chief.
The unpaid, voluntary position has been given to philanthropist Ben Elliot who is tasked with tackling the 10.2 million tonnes of food which the nation throws away every single year.
This is part of a wider government strategy to eliminate all food waste sent to landfill by 2030.
“Food waste is an economic, environmental and moral scandal. We must end it,” said Gove, adding that he was “delighted” to bring Elliot on board.
Elliot, who is co-founder of lifestyle group Quintessentially and the nephew of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, says he plans to work with supermarkets, food manufacturers and hospitality to tackle the scale of the current problem.
As well as working on redistribution of surplus food to those most in need.
He said: “Whilst families all over the country struggle to put food on the table and children still go to school each day with empty stomachs, there continues to be an unforgivable amount of food waste which is both morally deplorable and largely avoidable.”
Adding: “As a nation, we need to stop this excessive waste and ensure that surplus food finds its way to people in our society who need it most, and not let it get thrown away and go to landfill.”
There is no detail yet on how Elliot’s plans might impact individual households and the waste they generate but a report conducted by Satsuma Loans found the average UK household threw away an average of £16.35 of food over the Christmas period alone because families buy too much and plan meals badly.
This number may appear relatively low but across the UK, it shows the potential value of food waste to be a staggering £444 million.
“As a nation, we need to stop this excessive waste..."
In his new position, Elliot will work in line with the government’s proposed waste strategy, which is considering the introduction of mandatory reporting from food businesses on the amount of waste they generate. Businesses will also have to abide by government-set targets or face fines.
The charitable arm of Elliot’s organisation recently worked with The Felix Project, the charity combatting food waste and food poverty in London. Together they have pioneered a government-backed initiative to divert up to £1 billion of surplus food to those in need.
Elliot said: “The progress that we have made at the Felix Project has had a positive impact on thousands of people’s lives in London and I am extremely grateful to all of those involved in the food sector that have been so supportive.”