Food flows in the United Kingdom: The potential of surplus food redistribution to reduce waste

<p>The increasing amount of food waste generated as a direct consequence of its excessive production, mismanagement, and wasteful behaviors represents a real challenge in promoting resource efficiency. In the United Kingdom (UK), the lack of robust mass flow data hinders the ability both to understand and address food waste challenges and to devise long-term sustainable prevention strategies. In recognition of these challenges, this paper seeks to (i) provide insights into the UK’s annual estimates of food mass flows, including imports, exports, distribution, consumption, surplus food production, and final disposal; and (ii) scrutinize the uptake and redistribution of surplus food as a potential food waste prevention strategy. Evidence collected from several enterprises and community-led initiatives in the UK, and London specifically, supports that there is an increasing potential of making a shift towards food redistribution and reuse. Further analysis has shown that the outreach of food redistribution initiatives in the UK is currently limited, possibly because redistribution efforts remain largely fragmented and independent from each other. It is concluded that a national commitment could be instrumental in encouraging the roll-out of this practice, and governmental support through fiscal incentives could lead to the development of a larger and coherent surplus food redistribution system, ultimately enabling food waste prevention and recovery of food’s multidimensional value.</p> <p><i>Implications</i>: This paper deals with the topical issue of the increasing amount of food waste generated as a direct consequence of excessive production, mismanagement, and wasteful behavior, representing a real challenge in achieving sustainability and resource efficiency. Currently, only a small fraction of food is redistributed back into the system. Yet, a considerable fraction of food waste generated is edible; thus, better planning, storage, and coordination amongst the different stakeholders in the food supply chain is required in order to prevent its wastage and promote its reuse in accordance with the waste hierarchy.</p>