New research commissioned by environmental non-profit Hubbub and consumer goods giant Unilever reveals that in the first week of the summer break, £12 million worth of food will be thrown away as UK families head off on holiday; more than half of people surveyed admitted to throwing away perfectly edible food before they went on holiday. This unfortunate statistic is in keeping with 2015 research from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which found the UK to be among the top food wasters in Europe.
Responding to the challenge, Hubbub and Unilever have launched a ‘Joint Ambition for a Zero Food Waste Britain,’ in an effort to create a diverse coalition of organizations committed to helping households better understand the value of food and reduce food waste in the UK.
The Joint Ambition, which was developed following extensive consultation with 240 organizations and builds on public polling, contains five core principles:
- Collaboration between organizations from all sectors is essential to reducing household food waste.
- Communication should demonstrate the value of food, ensuring as much as possible is eaten.
- Awareness needs to be built on the wider environmental, social and financial impact of food.
- Skills and knowledge need to be built so that people get maximum value from food.
- Consistency is needed for food waste collection systems across the UK.
“As a food manufacturer, we understand that more needs to be done to address avoidable food waste, especially as in the UK alone, one fifth of struggling families experience food poverty. That’s why, through our Joint Ambition, we are taking collective action to drive lasting transformational change in this area,” said Charlotte Carroll, Sustainability Director at Unilever. “With our exciting partnership with Hubbub, who are experts in food waste and behavior change, we will be delivering a series of consumer campaigns via our brands, including Wall’s, Knorr and Hellmann’s.”
“The Joint Ambition highlights the need for a coordinated focus on food waste prevention, communication, skills and the recycling of unavoidable food waste. In this, it is really focused in helping households value their food and drink,” said David Moon, Head of Food Sustainability at WRAP. “Significantly, the Joint Ambition is also well aligned and contributes to the food waste targets and delivery programs within our industry-wide Courtauld 2025 agreement. We therefore look forward to the Joint Ambition being achieved.”
It seems like new schemes to tackle food waste in the UK emerge weekly. In the past year, initiatives have included a TV show, zero-waste restaurants and ales, a wonky Mr Potato Head, numerous consumer campaigns, food-redistribution platforms, a town for testing waste-reducing ideas, a campaign encouraging the conversion of food waste to energy and a Food Waste Recycling Action Plan from WRAP aimed at improving household and commercial food waste collection and recycling by promoting greater collaboration across supply chains.
Meanwhile, Unilever is one of many companies that are integrating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals into their growth and sustainability strategies. Helping to eliminate food waste worldwide would go a long way toward achieving several of the SDGs - #1 (No Poverty), #2 (No Hunger) and #12 (Sustainable Production and Consumption), to name a few – while initiatives such as the Joint Ambition fall into a growing number working to tackle #17 (Partnerships for the Goals).