Why take action: legal/policy case

Food waste is a major focus of the UK Government and prevention attempts are growing across the UK.  For example, in Scotland, a ban on sending food waste to landfill will come into force from 2015.  Make sure your company is operating within the law.

The waste hierarchy – a legal requirement

UK companies have a Duty of Care to operate according to the principles of waste minimisation. The revised EU Waste Framework Directive (2008) sets out five steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to their environmental impact; this is known as the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy has been incorporated into UK law through The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 and the Waste (Scotland) Regulations.

The waste hierarchy for food and drink businesses

To make the hierarchy easier to use by businesses in the food and drink sector, WRAP has produced a specific food and drink material hierarchy.

Food and drink material hierarchyClick image to view the Food and Drink Material Hierarchy
The food and drink material hierarchy sets out steps for dealing with waste to minimise the impact on the environment. The most preferable option is to prevent raw materials, ingredients and products from becoming waste in the first place. The impact of any surplus food that is still produced can be reduced by redistributing for human consumption through organisations such as charities or by sending it for animal feed.

The detailed definitions of each of the hierarchy stages, and non-exhaustive lists of disposal and recovery operations can be found in Article 3 of the EU Waste Framework Directive.

What the waste regulations mean in practice

In practice, this means that if your business or organisation produces or handles waste (this includes importing, producing, carrying, keeping, treating or transporting waste), you must take measures, which are reasonable in the circumstances to:

  • prevent waste: and
  • apply the waste hierarchy when you transfer waste.

In addition to understanding the implications of current regulations, look ahead to see what new regulations may be coming so that you can be prepared. This is important to help with longer term business planning and for your business to remain competitive.

Guidance documents

In 2011, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published a package of guidance to assist businesses and other organisations in England to make better decisions on waste and resource management. This guidance considers the environmental impacts of various waste management options for a range of materials. The guidance includes:

  • a short summary document aimed particularly at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
  • an evidence document that summarises current scientific research on the environmental impacts of various waste management options; and
  • an online support tool that produces a tailored guide for businesses according to what waste material they handle.

Voluntary action to reduce legislation risk

If industry can demonstrate that it can respond successfully to significant issues - such as food waste - on a voluntary basis this will help to reduce the need for the Government to introduce legislation to tackle this and other issues facing the sector.

The Courtauld Commitment

The Courtauld Commitment is an ambitious voluntary agreement that brings together organisations across the food system – from producer to consumer – to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable. Now in its fourth phase, Courtauld 2025 will cut the waste and greenhouse gas emissions associated with food and drink by at least one-fifth per person in ten years.

Find out about the waste reduction achievements signatories have made so far.

“At Procter & Gamble we are always seeking to integrate environmental improvements into the heart of our business and working with WRAP, as part of the Courtauld Commitment, is a key aspect of this."
Kirstie Hawkes, Sustainability Affairs Manager

What your company can do

Firstly, see if your company is taking WRAP’s recommended ‘5 Key Actions’ on waste then use the further resources provided to help you tackle the specific causes of waste.

Don’t forget to reap the full business benefits of reducing waste by letting your customers know what you are doing and how you are helping consumers reduce waste in their homes.

Why take action? See also: