Panel of top experts share their views on food waste

News | Posted on Wednesday 13 June 2018

Along with BioVale and Agrimax we hosted an exciting and topical panel discussion on food waste at this year’s Festival of Ideas titled 'Imagining a world without food waste.'

The issues around food waste are increasingly evident and are a growing focus of attention for researchers, government, the media and the public. A recent study by WRAP estimated that annual food waste production in the UK is around 10 million tonnes costing £17 billion annually [1]. ‘Imagining the impossible’ is this year’s Festival of Ideas theme and we wanted to imagine a world without food waste.

During the event, the general public joined an expert panel from industry, policy, academia and non-governmental organisations to discuss the challenges and opportunities of preventing food waste across the food supply chain. The panellists included:

The interactive audience Q&A was excellent, with some really thought provoking questions. Areas covered included the effect of Brexit on food waste; meat based diets vs plant based diets; plastic vs food waste; best before dates; where responsibility lies and much much more.

The overarching message was that the onus doesn’t lie on one stakeholder in the food supply chain. Julietta highlighted the complexity of the food system and the need for all actors to work in collaboration whilst Carrie stated there is only so much the consumer can do: our regulatory, legal and policy environment must change too. Maggie and Joe highlighted the importance of focusing not only on avoidable food waste, but also on unavoidable food waste i.e. products which can’t ever be consumed but can have real value. 

The discussion was wrapped up with a closing statement from each of the panellists, providing tips for the audience to tackle food waste. These included:

  • Buying produce to support the campaign against waste e.g. wonky vegetables, Toast Ale (made from stale bread)!
  • Challenging the status quo by going to your local MP or joining campaign groups
  • Considering a plant based diet
  • Teaching children about the value of food
  • Changing your behaviour e.g. shop locally, produce a shopping list, freeze perishable goods

The event ended with an exhibition of food waste research at York with live demonstrations showing how to turn old milk into glue. This was topped off with a serving of ‘surplus food’ soup made from grade B asparagus destined for landfill but made into a very tasty snack!  

An audience member from Scalby and Newby WI, Scarborough said ‘This has been a great event and I hope people will use the tips provided today.  Food waste is a key focus of the WI and we are lobbying Parliament to address the issue.’

[1] WRAP: Estimates of food surplus and waste arising in the UK