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Support for Food Retailers: upcoming food waste legislation

Over half (36%) of food retail businesses have admitted that they don’t recycle their food waste and nearly half (47%) don’t think of food waste recycling as a core priority, according to new research from Keenan Recycling.

This comes as new legislation from DEFRA and the Welsh Government’s Business, Public, and Third Sector Recycling Regulation are currently in consultation and are due to come into force within the next year.

The new legislation is expected to mandate that any business producing over 5kg of food waste will need to separate and recycle their waste through a registered food waste carrier service, or risk potentially hefty financial penalties.

Despite the incoming laws, nearly half (44%) of food retailers said they have little to no understanding of the proposed food waste legislation and half (50%) said that they are unprepared for the changes. 

Furthermore, food retail businesses admitted that they do not understand the importance of recycling food waste, with 71% saying that reducing their carbon footprint is not the main reason they’d recycle food waste.

However, half of respondents (49%) did say that their business is working to gain an understanding of the proposed legislation.

Richard Thalemann, co-founder at 40 Percent, an organisation that works with food retailers to identify ways to reduce food waste, said: “When we first introduced food waste segregation at one of the big supermarkets, food had to be separated based on the type of product and things started to go wrong as it was a difficult process for staff to follow. But since then, solutions have been developed, for example, employees can now use a handheld device to scan products and it tells them exactly what to do.

“Engaging employees on the bigger picture and allowing them to be part of the solution is incredibly powerful in the fight against food waste. Engaging and training them on the process will help them think about their daily actions to reduce food waste and correctly recycle any food surplus. This will ensure that we, as businesses, can see the true benefits of recycling while achieving the Courtauld Commitment.”

Grant Keenan, managing director at Keenan Recycling, added: “Our research found that the food retail sector is behind other industries when it comes to food waste recycling. This is not surprising given they are having to contend with economic challenges and supply chain shortages. Added to this, often the sticking point for many is the misconception that food waste recycling is expensive. However, our research found that recycling food waste rather than sending it to landfill can save businesses almost £7,000 per year.

“At Keenan Recycling, we have been working with the food retail sector in Scotland since similar legislation came into force back in 2014 and all of the businesses that we work with have successfully adapted their operations to adhere with the regulations. So, the fact that businesses across the UK are already working to gain an understanding of legislation is a really positive sign and over the coming months there is a big opportunity for the sector to embrace the changes, not only to reduce carbon emissions, but to save them money, too.”

To find out more about how the food retail sector is faring against other industries, download Keenan Recycling’s full ‘Facing today’s food waste crisis’ report here.