Turning up the volume on food waste

Based out of the UK, Feedback is an organization seeking to alter the global food system through sustained campaigning and raising awareness.

A version of this article was previously posted on Rabobank.com on March 8, 2018.

UK-based charity Feedback has been working since 2009 to raise awareness of food waste around the world. Following years of successful, high-profile campaigns that have brought the issue to the public’s attention – and made founder Tristram Stuart a poster boy for fighting food waste – it is now altering its focus.

“We are launching our new strategy this year, which positions food waste as a major symptom of the wider problems with our food system,” says Executive Director Carina Millstone. “The reality is it costs our planet far too much to produce the food we eat – yet we face the demands of a growing global population who all deserve fair access to it.”

"It costs our planet far too much to produce the food we eat"

- Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback

According to Millstone, waste occurs throughout the supply chain for various reasons, but the issue at the root of it is undervaluing our food and ignoring the high environmental costs of overproduction and waste.

Encouraging news on food waste

“Since we started campaigning, food waste has found its rightful place as a major issue for customers and one that businesses know they need to address,” she says. “Supermarkets have started measuring and reporting on their waste and almost all retailers have redistribution agreements in place to make sure surplus food gets to hungry mouths rather than landfill. According to the latest figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme, food waste fell by 12% in UK homes between 2007 and 2012.”

“The UK’s Tesco’s is halving food waste in their supply chain”

- Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback

Forcing supermarkets to take action

In 2016, Feedback’s campaigning influenced the development of a new law in France banning supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Another success for the organization is UK supermarket Tesco’s decision to work with some of their top suppliers to halve food waste in their supply chain. The move came after years of engagement with Feedback.

“More recently, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture announced he would bring forward legislation to combat unfair trading practices, which would be a major step towards reducing waste in global supply chains, as we know that power imbalances in supply chains often lead to waste on the farms of smaller producers,” says Millstone.

Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall campaigning for The Pig Idea

An ever bigger picture

“However, we still have a lot of work to do. We’re now looking at the wider picture. That still includes tackling waste, but it also means finding ways of encouraging more circular, less wasteful food production practices across the supply chain. For example, we are stepping up our campaign called The Pig Idea. It encourages the feeding of food surplus no longer fit for human consumption to pigs and chickens. This would allow us to deal with waste in a productive way and reduce our reliance on feed crops – potentially saving significant land and resources, when you consider that one third of crops are grown to feed animals, not people. We’d also like to see food waste used to feed more farmed animals like fish.

“Our food system is global. That means the solutions we need to halve food waste by 2030 – the UN Sustainable Development Goal, which we fully support – will take concerted demand by citizens, action by global companies and regulation by governments.”

Read Feedback’s new report on supermarkets and waste here.