Food waste is a scandal.

I read a shocking statistic in the Retail Gazette, a publication probably not known for shocking its readership: in a meeting held between UK government ministers and the major supermarkets back in June 2021, Tesco admitted that 50 tonnes of edible food were being binned every week because of the driver shortage.

Multiply that by the number of other large food retailers and we’re talking about thousands of tonnes of food and millions of meals wasted over the last three months alone.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation at the UN estimates that one third of the world’s food is wasted, amounting to 1.3bn tonnes at an eye-watering cost of $1trillion.

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Food waste is also responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. Countries in the south with poor road networks and storage infrastructure face problems getting produce to market, while consumers in richer northern countries, like our own, throw good food away at an alarming rate.

Of the estimated nine million tonnes of food wasted annually in the UK, 70% is household waste.

The Welsh Government supports a number of initiatives including the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which is behind the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, a useful resource for people looking for ways to cut down on waste and, just as important, save money. And food waste has fallen in Wales by 12% between 2009 and 2015.

Not all waste can be avoided, however, and here the Welsh Government has been particularly keen to support a number of anaerobic digestion plants which take food waste from 99% of Wales’ 1.4m households and turn it into biogas and fertiliser, rather than send it to landfill.

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The Government has allocated £23m of ring-fenced funding to local authorities for food waste collections. Funding is also provided to WRAP Cymru allowing it to work with businesses to reduce waste. Recently, for example, it supported a Pembrokeshire berry farm to use waste berries to create fruit syrups.

All of which makes Wales a world leader in household recycling, enabling the government to set ambitious targets. Wales plans to halve food waste from 2006-07 levels by 2025, five years ahead of the Sustainable Development Goal target, and introduce a legal requirement for separate food waste collections from businesses by the end of this year.

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A good news story in the midst of relentless gloom, maybe, but the fact remains that 200,000 children and their families regularly go hungry in Wales, despite the best efforts of projects, like the Rhondda foodshare scheme and many others across Wales, to redistribute food.

Recycling is one thing. Hunger is something else. Until both are tackled the real problem of food poverty will only get worse.

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