Ireland’s National Food Waste Prevention Roadmap – a pathway to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030
By Declan Hegarty
Food waste is a global problem with environmental, social and economic consequences. Growing, processing, and transporting food all use significant amounts of resources, and at a time when global supply chain issues are to the fore, the far-reaching effects are obvious with food waste accounting 8-10% of total anthropogenic (human induced) GHG emissions.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), based on current estimates, Ireland generates approximately 1.1 million tonnes of food waste per year, which represents a carbon footprint at an estimated 3.6 Mt CO2eq2. Unsurprisingly, about a third of food waste arises in retail and catering, with a somewhat smaller share of waste from consumers, and a larger share from producers.
Tackling food waste and loss is essential to achieving sustainability, to help combat climate change, and in supporting Ireland’s transition to a circular economy. It also leads to savings for consumers and operators. On top of that, the recovery and redistribution of surplus food, which would otherwise be wasted, has an important social dimension in terms of providing food for those in need.
The Government’s recently published National Food Waste Prevention Roadmap, a commitment in Ireland’s Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy and the Government’s 2021 Climate Action Plan, provides a pathway to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. Launched by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, it also sets out actions on – food waste segregation; food donation; research; and communications to help households to avoid food waste and also looks at what the public sector can do to tackle food waste through improved procurement practices.
It focuses on using circular economy approaches and stresses the importance of all sectors, including those in production and distribution, playing their part in a strategic and collaborative approach. Measuring and reporting on food waste, including the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation framework to check progress, will have a key role in achieving food waste goals.
A global challenge also requires a global approach. Ireland’s commitments are in line with Goal 12 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) with a target to, ‘by 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.’
They are also in line with EU with a number of Circular Economy goals and its Farm to Fork strategy (2020). Both EU and Irish food waste policy is grounded in the waste hierarchy, where prevention and reuse actions come first before other options are considered. At the centre of both policies are day to day actors and stakeholders, and Minister of State with special responsibility for Communications and Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth TD, has been quick to point out that “every individual, every household, every business and every organisation has a role to play.”
The role of packaging
Furthermore, the interchange between food waste and packaging is obvious. Increasingly complex and extended food supply chains mean that an increasing amount of food items require sustainable packaging to ensure delivery of high-quality safe food. Consequently, this is a great opportunity to integrate our food and packaging systems to work sustainability with each other.
A key pillar of the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy acknowledges the role of packaging in food preservation with a commitment to support the design and roll out of packaging developed by retailers and the packaging industry that meets the needs of food preservation without encouraging the generation of packaging waste, especially plastic packaging.
The challenge for the Government will be managing its efforts to legislate for a global problem while seeking to marry environmental concerns with the reality of modern-day macro level drivers.
Ongoing policy examination is required to understand how food waste can work in a circular economy and in developing an effective strategy to deliver on these new ambitions. This consultation is a step in the right direction and gives all sectors the opportunity to have their say.
If you want to find out more about Ireland’s National Food Waste Prevention Roadmap, please get in touch with us.