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UK Food Waste Management following the European Union (EU) Directives

| November 27, 2012


Global warming is a well known problem facing our society today however, food waste which contributes about 30-31% of global warming is not largely recognised (EIPRO) Environmental Impact of Product. Food waste, a biodegradable waste is largely disposed in landfill due to unawareness of its effect on the environment. Methane gas is released during the degradation process of food waste and this leads to depletion of the ozone layer and eventually global warming. Food waste also leads to waste of fresh water, fuel for transport, soil nutrient and finance Humpries (2010). European Union   ( EU) knowing the effect of food waste to the environment and life in general has established laws and made targets to reduce food waste.

What is food waste?

Waste and Resource Action Programme (2009) defines food waste as waste made up of raw food materials or cooked materials such as vegetables, spoiled food, meat trimmings and leftovers. It can also be defined as agricultural products unused, worthless or unwanted. Examples of food waste are leftovers from our homes and food service sectors, bones, spoilt food and food that have exceeded their shelf life.

Sources of food waste

The sources of food waste have been grouped into three major sectors by Waste and Resources Action Programme (2009)

  • Manufacturing and Processing: In this sector food waste is unavoidable particularly with products such as meat. Bones and animal organs which may not be consumed are examples of unavoidable waste in this sector. Legislative restriction on outsize production of fruit and vegetables is another unavoidable means of food waste Commission Regulation NO 1221/2008.
  • Retail Sector: The sector includes all sales outlets, wholesale and retail. Food waste in this sector is generated due to overstocking of food products with short shelf lives without matching of demand, Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) (2002). Marketing strategies (two for one deal) is used by retailers to reduce food waste from their sector however, ends up shifting the waste to household where is to enough time to consume these products.
  • Household and food service sector: This sector was analysed in UK by Waste Resources Action Programme (2009) as of one the major sources of food waste. It further states that almost half of food waste is generated at this sector. In disagreement with Waste Resources Action Programme, Laura and Jon (2008) argues that the percentage of food waste contributed by household and food service sector is less than half with constant development of food industries and supermarket in the UK.

European Commission (2008) reveals that unawareness of the effect of food waste to the environment, finance and percentage of waste produced by this sector to total food waste accumulated yearly as one of the major causes of food waste in this sector.

Effects of food waste to the environment

Environmental Impact of Product (EIPRO) points out that for proper analyses of the effect of food waste on the environment, research should be carried out on the general life cycle or stages of food (production, distribution transport) before and after it becomes waste.

According to Kassem (2010) food been biodegradable has lead to increase level of food waste in land fill leading to increased emission of methane gas and further depletion of the ozone layer causing global warming.  Similarly, Kassem (2010) and Vidal (2002) agreed that food production consumes 70% of the world’s fresh water. The work of United Nations Environmental Programme (2009) reveals that most of the food produced ends up as waste thus leading to wastage of fresh water. In reference to Jodie Humpries (2010) other resources wasted as a result of food waste includes soil nutrient, energy put in during agricultural process and fuel for transport.

New EU directives on food waste

The European Union is a body that controls or Legislates environmental issues. Food waste, an environmental issue is under control by some binding laws. The new EU Directives on food wastes 2008/98/European Commission simplifies how food waste should be controlled or managed.


The Waste Hierarchy

Preferred Option

                Least preferred management method


Fig 1 illustrates the New EU Waste Directive Hierarchy (2008) which directs member state (MS) on the path to follow for effective management of food waste. This waste hierarchy gives high priority to waste prevention and very low priority to landfill. However unavoidable food waste can either be re-used, recycled or use for energy recovery

Article 22 of Revived Waste Framework requires member states to set up separate collection of bio- waste, treat bio- waste in ways that is friendly to the environment and use  materials produced from recycled from bio- waste that are safe. The Directive also instructed member states (MS) to recycle 50% of waste from household by 2020.

Salmon (2009) points out that the fundamental laws outlined in the food waste directives (prevention, re- use, recycling, energy recovery and landfill for last resort) are been practically employed in the UK.


Proper management of food in UK following the European Union (EU) Directives (prevention, re-use, recycling, energy recovery and landfill for last resort) will reduce food waste disposed in landfill and eventually methane gas and global warming.



Commission Regulation (EC) no 1221/2008 0f 5 December 2008:

EC  (2008). Green paper on the management of bio-waste in the European Union, Brussels, Belgium.

Jodie.H.(2010). The impact of domestic food waste on climate change. Retrieved March 10, 2011 from http://www.nextgeneration

John. V (August, 2002). Earth’s liquid asset. The Guardian, p.6.

Laura.B and Jon.H (2008). How to break the habit of wasting food. Retrieved March 10, 2011, from

Norem. K. (2010). How to reduce food waste waste .Retrieved March 8, 2011 from

OECD (2002). Environmental Impacts and Policy Responses.Retrieved March 10, 2011 from,3355,en_2649_34331_1_1_1_1_1,00.html

Salmon.B (2009).The waste frame work directive explained. Retrieved March 10, from -and-Natural-References.html.

United Nations Environmental Programme. (2009). environment’s role in averting food crisis. United Nations Environment Programme:GRID-Arendal

Waste and Resources Action Programme (2009). Household and drink waste in the UK.Retrieved March 8,2011 from

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