The silver bullet hiding in plain sight

Tessa Clarke
3 min readAug 29, 2023

In a hammer blow to communities and the environment, the UK Government has recently announced it’s scrapping plans to introduce a groundbreaking new law that would require medium and large businesses to report their food waste data.

Why is this such a travesty?

In the UK businesses throw away over 2 billion meals of perfectly good food every single year. In addition to the enormous economic cost of this, millions of Brits are struggling to put food on the table, with the Food Foundation estimating that in January 2023 9.3 million people experienced food insecurity. These are people who could put that surplus food to much better use than the bin — if only businesses would bother to redistribute it.

Alongside this — as the fires, floods and extreme heat waves of this summer demonstrate — the climate crisis is unfolding at a pace; and food waste is an enormous culprit, accounting for 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

A dirty little secret

At the moment food waste is a dirty little secret of big business — whether it be in supply chains, back of store, corporate canteens or events, food waste is endemic. However as the majority of this takes place behind closed doors, it’s very much a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, which is why mandatory food waste reporting would have been such a powerful catalyst to change.

A false economy

Unfortunately, despite 80% of consultation respondents being in favour of mandatory food waste reporting, the Government has decided that the cost to businesses would be too large to implement, and so has opted for voluntary reporting instead.

And what is that cost? The cost that’s preventing millions of Brits accessing 2 billion meals per year, and stymying our collective progress to Net Zero? It’s an incremental £52 million over a 12 year period, for the sector as a whole. A literal drop in the ocean in comparison to the societal and environmental costs of the status quo.

Take action

It’s true that many UK food businesses — including retail and catering partners of Olio’s Food Waste Heroes Programme like Tesco, Iceland, One Stop, and Compass — have made innovative and impactful steps to reduce food waste in recent years. But we desperately need more businesses to follow suit, and mandatory waste reporting is just the accelerant we need.

There’s simply too much at stake to accept this short-sighted decision from the Government, which is why the team at Olio are supporting the Feedback campaign to ramp up public pressure to save the food waste law.

Join us in petitioning the government to introduce compulsory food waste reportingclick here to add your signature.

Whilst solving structural inequality, and transitioning our energy systems will take decades to complete, reducing food waste is the untapped silver bullet for both people and planet that’s hidden in plain sight.

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Tessa Clarke

Co-Founder & CEO of Olio, the local sharing app. Getting my head around the climate crisis. Passionate about sustainability, startups & diversity.