Thursday, 24 January 2019

Questions (9)

Joe Carey

Question:

9. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps that can be taken to reduce food waste, particularly in supermarkets. [3187/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Communications)

I ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps that he can take to reduce food waste, particularly in supermarkets.

Globally, it is estimated that one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted each year. In Irish households, food waste is costing about €700 each every year. Ireland aims to halve food waste by 2030 in line with the United Nations sustainable development goals and the EU’s circular economy action plan.

In Ireland, we waste nearly 1 million tonnes of food annually. About a third arises in retail and catering, with a somewhat smaller share of waste from consumers, and somewhat larger share from producers. While supermarkets are directly responsible for the disposal of only 2% of food waste, their influence across the supply chain makes them central actors in combating our national food waste problem. Recognising this, my Department and the EPA sought to involve major supermarkets in reducing food waste. Aldi, BWG, Lidl, Musgrave and Tesco have all participated in my Department’s action group on food waste. This has involved signing up to the food waste charter commitments, supporting the EPA’s "Stop food waste" campaign, signing up to the FoodCloud food donation network and collecting and sharing food waste data.

I intend to build on this foundation. I am currently reviewing the data on waste streams and practices at different points in the supply chain and any implications for our current programmes. My aim is to identify initiatives which can reduce food waste in line with agreed targets but also to improve recycling by encouraging increased uptake and use of the brown bin by householders and businesses.

I shall work with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the EPA, producers, retailers, consumers and local authorities to develop an effective strategy to deliver on these new ambitions. Schools are important channels through which attention and improved practices can be promoted.

I thank the Minister. A great deal of progress has been made to reduce our food waste over the years. If one looks back at 2009, the first pilot was done at Frenchpark in Roscommon which entailed a national master composter training programme. The programme has been rolled out nationally since. The introduction of brown bins was another success. There is a website, stopfoodwaste.ie, which is also very good. I welcome the Department's interaction with the various supermarkets, including Tesco, Lidl, BWG Foods and Musgraves on the initiative mentioned by the Minister and in the setting up of the action group. Charitable organisations like FoodCloud are doing tremendous work. Along with Simon, it operates a food hub in the midwest, which is great. We need to build on this progress . As such, I ask the Minister whether he has plans to step up efforts to reduce food waste.

I am reviewing all of these matters to determine how we can enhance our performance here. A 50% reduction is going to require huge improvements. Food bins are not universally deployed currently which means that is one area to examine. There is significant contamination of bins currently. The relatively high rate of contamination can compromise the recyclability of materials. That is another area. We will identify demands and requests on the production chain to see how we can reduce the impact across it. It will be partly about enhancing consumer consciousness, taking into consideration the role of schools but we will also look at retailers, as the Deputy said, right back to producers to reduce the handling and creation of waste.

I agree entirely with the Minister that the consumer is key and that schools have a role to play. Indeed, producers are also an issue. If one looks at vegetables in particular, there is a grading system which means that a vegetable of a different size or look than the norm is discarded. Is that an area at which the Minister might look in the context of this issue?

We will certainly look at it if the Deputy has ideas as to how that could be dealt with. Over one third of waste is at the producer end which reflects practices like that. Whether the discards can be recycled into other material such as animal feed or whether they can get into the consumer chain, I am happy to look at any suggestion from players in the field. I intend to meet with different players to go through the policy changes we need to make to deliver on our ambitions.