Dr Liz Goodwin speech at the APSRG event on ‘The EU Circular Economy Package: Policy Priorities for the UK’, Westminster



Thank you, and good morning.

I have three points I wish to share with you today.

Firstly, why and how I believe the EU Commission should use the circular economy package to set the direction and vision for Europe in 2025.

Secondly, what role food waste should play as part of that vision.

And thirdly, the role voluntary agreements should play in helping achieve that vision.

Only in the fullness of time will we see what the EU Commission’s circular economy strategy will contain.

I believe passionately that the strategy should have a no holds barred approach.

It should set out how we’ll meet the challenges brought about by rising global populations and the increased desire for western consumption patterns.

Which, as a consequence, increases demand for food, energy and water.

All at a time when resources are scarcer and less secure.

These pressing resource challenges affect us in Europe, every bit as much as they do in the rest of the world.

This is why WRAP’s mission is to accelerate the move to a sustainable, resource-efficient economy through:

Re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products.

Re-thinking how we use and consume products.

Re-defining what is possible through re-use and recycling.

It means challenging the make-use-throw away-make another, consumption trends.

It’s an unsustainable business model and the Commission should put in place the framework to help address it.

It means having a ten year plan where sustainability is not just ‘on’ the agenda, but at the heart of the agenda.

A plan that shows why the environmental, economic and societal needs are best met when products are designed with durability, recyclability and repairability in mind.

There will always be leaders to drive this agenda, and I unashamedly count WRAP as one of these.

But one company, one sector, or even one nation can’t do it alone.

We need a systematic and shared strategy, which takes account of all the nations of Europe - a collective movement for positive and lasting change.

The EU Commission should lead this, because it is uniquely placed to bring nations together to understand the different challenges they face.

Because each nation will have its own resource efficiency challenges.

Each nation will also have its own standards and cultures to consider, and have varying degrees of awareness of resource issues.

So, what WRAP strongly advocates is that the EU Commission leads in bringing businesses and nations together to share best practice.

The UK resources sector has a range of expertise and knowhow, so I encourage the Commission to listen to it.

Food waste, my second point, is a perfect example of where the UK leads, and best practice can and should be shared.

I read with bemusement the other week a press report stating that the UK has the most food waste of all European nations.

This is nonsense.

The reality is we’re the only nation that knows with confidence what we waste and have figures to benchmark against.

Other European nations just don’t have this intelligence, so it would be wrong to say the UK lags behind.

On the contrary, we are world leading.

For example, it wasn’t until WRAP literally looked in peoples bins, did we know how much food was being wasted in our homes.

Not only did we find out how much they wasted, but what they wasted.

And we found out too why they wasted it.

No other nation maps its waste at this level.

But only by having this intelligence could we make any meaningful inroads in preventing that waste from continuing to happen.

Having this evidence also allowed us to set a baseline to measure progress against, which is so important.

Because in order to find the solution, we must first understand the problem.

The UK doesn’t have all the answers, but we have a lot.

And having these answers has allowed WRAP to help reduce avoidable household food waste by 21 percent over a five year period.

It’s good progress, but more still needs to be done.

Having greater buy in at EU level will help the UK in its continued efforts,

just as it would benefit those States at the early stages of the food waste reduction journey.

But of course, it does highlight the complexities of having one binding target for the EU to reduce food waste.

If you are at different stages of the food waste journey then it’s difficult to have one target for all.

I agree with what Defra Minister Rory Stewart said a couple of weeks ago,

about the trouble you can get in if unachievable targets are rushed out.

This is partly why I am not convinced of the idea of having blanket legislation to tackle food waste across Europe.

The challenges in the UK could be very different from – say - that of Estonia or Romania.

But as I previously said, we do need to share best practice to bring about reductions in food waste.

I guess I’m less for standardisation, and more about simplification to achieve results.

So instead of one overriding legislative target, I would encourage tried and tested sector commitments, which could be tailored to meet the needs of EU regions or Member States.

Bespoke baselines based on robust evidence, brought about by the sharing of best practice.

One of the main ways WRAP has delivered food waste reductions in the UK is through voluntary agreements, such as the Courtauld Commitment.

I believe that without the likes of Courtauld, the UK would be languishing in mid table in food waste reduction, but with it, we are world leaders.

Well-designed and well-run voluntary agreements can be a powerful lever for change.

They allow businesses to work together to come up with solutions to problems in a way that works for the sector and consumers.

They can create healthy competition, and shared goals, based on stretching but achievable targets.

This in turn creates momentum and tangible outcomes making them a very viable vehicle to achieve food waste reductions.

All for the benefit of the environment, the economy, and society as a whole.

WRAP believes a strong EU circular economy package will be good for the EU, and good for the UK, and we look forward to responding to the EU consultation with our proposals.

As part of this process we will be making the recommendation that the EU Commission seizes the opportunity to shape what Europe looks like in 2025.

To encourage the sharing of best practice from businesses and nations with a track record of success.

To ensure food waste prevention and reduction is included in the package, with measurable and achievable baselines for Member States to report against.

And to utilise voluntary agreements as a means to reduce waste.

A package that is based on evidence of what and where to target action,

equipped with the tools to deliver that action.

All for the good of the environment, the economy, and society.

Thank you.