Coffey Wants Councils To be “More Proactive” With Recycling Initiatives

Resources minister Dr Therese Coffey has said she would like to do more to encourage councils to be “more proactive” when it comes to recycling initiatives, but that her work on this has come to a “pause” due to the PM’s snap election.

Speaking at the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee hearing into food waste in Westminster this week (19 April), Dr Coffey also said the country isn’t at the “stage” where mandatory approaches to recycling are needed.

In the session, she commented: “One of the things I have been interested in doing—of course, yesterday’s events bring it somewhat to a pause at the moment—is to do more to encourage councils to be more proactive in their approaches to how they undertake recycling initiatives. WRAP is doing ongoing work with our officials on elements of that.”

Dr Coffey – “There are certain rules already in place about separate collections and so on. To go to one extreme, where a household is required to have seven or eight bins, is in my view not appropriate. It feels like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

“I do not think we are at the stage at which we need to be considering mandatory approaches,” she went on. “There are certain rules already in place about separate collections and so on. To go to one extreme, where a household is required to have seven or eight bins, is in my view not appropriate. It feels like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

The Committee launched the inquiry into the economic, social, and environmental impact of food waste in England due to the 8m tonnes of food is wasted post-manufacture, including households, retail and wholesale and hospitality/food sector.

60% of this could have been avoided and has an annual value of approximately £16bn a year.

Although food waste occurs at all stages of the supply chain (and some food waste is avoidable), 85% of food waste post-manufacture comes from our homes. Research shows that the average family (a household containing children) spends £700 a year on food that is wasted, according to the Committee.

Fridge Temperature

Dr Coffey also announced that the government is considering plans to distribute fridge thermometers, after trials from Sainsbury’s highlighted the role the simple tools can play in tackling food waste.

“One of the biggest contributors to food waste is within the household,” she said. “Using their fridge correctly at the right temperature actually does a lot to reduce food waste.”

Her comments come on the back of Sainsbury’s distributing more than 1m fridge thermometers as part of its Waste less, Save more programme – a £10m initiative designed to cut food household food waste.

Official guidance from WRAP says that fridges should be kept at below 5ᵒc in order to keep food fresh.  Despite this, research from the organisation shows that two thirds of fridges run above this temperature.

Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Energy, Engineering & Environment for Sainsbury’s – “Cutting household food waste is a big task and – as with all behaviour change – will take a continued, collaborative effort.”

Sainsbury’s first trialled fridge thermometers in Swadlincote, a South Derbyshire town where the retailer spent £1m testing waste-saving initiatives over the course of a year. Results showed that 22% of people had their fridge set at the wrong temperature and, on the back of the study, Sainsbury’s expanded the scheme by giving away a further 1m thermometers to households across the UK in September last year.

Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Energy, Engineering & Environment for Sainsbury’s, said: “While all retailers are looking at cutting food waste within their own operations, the reality is that the majority of food waste actually comes from the home. That’s why it’s important to help customers waste less, will also working to keep our own surplus down.

“Cutting household food waste is a big task and – as with all behaviour change – will take a continued, collaborative effort.

“So it’s great to see Thérèse Coffey showing her support for our Waste less, Save more scheme, and leading the calls for things like fridge thermometers to be rolled out more widely. Such simple solutions can make a big difference, and significantly extend the life of our fresh food. We’ll continue to invest in Waste less, Save more and hope to highlight more positive schemes in the months and years ahead.”


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  1. Cut to the chase Dr Coffey: reinstate the ring-fenced funding for Councils to invest in extending recycling (WRAP are too scared to tell you this in case they lose out on their funding). And stop promoting the red herring that more food waste recycling will impact on our performances. It’s far too expensive for the percentage improvements it delivers. Get back to basics and listen to the advice of practicing waste managers, not the academics.

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