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Industry leaders discuss food waste reduction at NLWA’s annual conference

March 27 2018

With reusable coffee cups aplenty and lots of ‘passing’ on plastic, waste prevention couldn’t be higher on the public’s agenda. It was therefore perfect timing for the 2018 North London Waste Prevention Exchange – by all accounts the only annual conference in the UK which focuses solely on waste prevention. Running now for the fourth year, it’s clear that responsible disposal of waste is of critical importance.

95 delegates attended the conference, run by North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which took place on 7 March at Inmarsat Conference Centre in Islington. The theme of the conference was ‘Public engagement as a tool for tackling food waste’ and a panel of experts from the UK and abroad were invited to share their ideas and initiatives.

Five presentations were delivered during the morning session. Antony Buchan, Head of Programme at Resource London delivered a presentation about the TRiFOCAL (Transforming City Food Habits for Life) programme, sharing approaches to consumer engagement. This was followed by a presentation from Joséphine Henrion, Head of Food and Consumption Unit at Brussels Environment who talked about the Brussels Good Food Strategy. Hilke Bos-Brouwers, Senior Scientist at Wageningen University and Research explored initiatives and programmes to encourage public participation before Roger Grosvenor, Joint Chief Executive at the East of England Co-op, shared information on the role of supermarkets in reducing household food waste. Finally, Tania Skae, Senior Programme and Relationships Manager at the London Community Foundation presented experiences of the Food for London campaign and initiatives underway in the capital to redistribute surplus food.

The morning session proved particularly interesting with some insightful conclusions. A range of strategies to tackle food waste, that have been implemented in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, were described. All of these approaches had one common theme - to be successful it is important to empower the individual and highlight the value of food - to help raise understanding and to provide practical tools of how to make the most of the food we already have. This has to be a focus of all food waste prevention work going forward.

It became clear throughout the morning sessions that there are various opportunities that local authorities, businesses and third sector organisations have to engage with the public. These engagement opportunities can take place at home, in schools, in restaurants, supermarkets, in offices or when commuting for example, but there should be a way to share best practise and replicate successful food waste prevention initiatives and communication to increase public engagement across a variety of establishments.

The morning session also showed that food waste needs to be tackled at a retailer and at a supplier level. To be more effective at reducing food waste on a wider scale also requires more retailers to be following practical food waste reduction initiatives from elsewhere and for suppliers to be working towards reducing overproduction. And finally, we should start investigating the link between plastics waste and food waste to give us an understanding as to whether a reduction in plastic packaging and the associated waste resulting would have an unintended impact on food waste; and this understanding should be shared widely within the industry.

In the afternoon, Ricardo AEA delivered a workshop which explored priorities for devising a food waste prevention programme based on the 4Es behaviour change model (enabling people to make a change, encouraging actions, engaging with the community and exemplifying what is being done by others).

Additionally, the presence of information stands from NLWA, Groundwork London, Hubbub, ecoACTIVE Education and The Restart Project provided delegates with the opportunity to find out more about local waste prevention, reuse and recycling projects.

A summary report about the conference, and speakers’ slides, is available on the dedicated webpage at wiseuptowaste.org.uk/exchange. For consumer information about NLWA’s other waste prevention activity, visit wiseuptowaste.org.uk.

Notes to editors:

  • The North London Waste Authority (NLWA was established in 1986 and is the waste disposal authority for Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest. Its primary function is to arrange the transport and disposal of waste collected by these boroughs. NLWA is the second largest waste disposal authority in the country
  • For more information, please contact Miriam Cragg, Senior Communications Officer, on 020 8489 5742 or Miriam.cragg@nlwa.gov.uk