Defra Sets Out Food Waste & Urban Recycling As R&D Priority

The challenge of reducing food waste and how to increase urban recycling has been set as a priority as part of Defra’s research and development (R&D) interest.

The Department has published a document that sets out the collective high level areas of research interest across the “Defra group”, which includes agencies, public bodies, the Environment Agency, RPA and Natural England.

It sets out a series of important research questions as response to Sir Paul Nurse’s review of the UK Research Councils.

“There is a need across the full range of government departments for a more strategic approach in relation to their departmental R&D programmes.”

The review set out to explore how research councils can support research most effectively, with an aim of ensuring that the UK continues to support world-leading science, and invests public money in the best possible way.

The review recommended enhancing communication of government research priorities.

The document states: “There is a need across the full range of government departments for a more strategic approach in relation to their departmental R&D programmes. This is partly a matter of securing the right levels of resource, but includes maintaining ‘statements of need’, in terms of the most important research questions confronting the departments. These will require work across the Government analytical professions to develop.”

The research needs for Defra are extensive and this statement of research interest cannot be comprehensive, it says. Therefore, in developing the document, Defra has formulated a series of high-level questions which express the evidence challenges the department faces.

Defra has intentionally described these as “long-term, cross-cutting and large scale”, so they are “robust” to changes over short time scales.

Environmental quality questions to be addressed include:

  • How can we minimise food waste and encourage urban recycling?
  • What are the cost-effective, publically acceptable and practical ways to improve air quality in the short, medium and long term?
  • How can noise be effectively managed and, where appropriate, mitigated?
    How can industrial pollution be controlled and effectively and efficiently managed?
  • How can we manage existing, new and emerging chemical pollutants to reduce damage to the environment and human health?
  • How will the climate change, what risks will this pose and which risk management actions are urgent and cost effective?
  • How can we better understand the nature and extent (at local and national levels) of all forms of pollution including chemical and air?
  • What are the cost-effective, publicly acceptable and practical ways to minimise agriculture’s carbon emissions and its impacts on air and water quality?

For the full document CLICK HERE


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  1. Food waste isn’t the biggest issue that needs to be tackled but captures the attention of the media and the luvvies who know little about the realities of separating, collecting and processing it.
    But no doubt a lot of public money will be flung at ‘Consultants’ who’ll come back with a load of airy-fairy ideas that won’t work.
    Why isn’t Defra investing on the basics: ie how can we improve recycling rates for paper, glass, cans and plastics in flatted properties and help our cities catch up with the rest of the UK?
    Pardon the pun but food waste is a red herring and simply a diversion.

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