Delivering Scotland's circular economy - route map to 2025 and beyond: consultation

Through this consultation we set out our proposals for a Route Map to 2025, our strategic plan to deliver Scotland’s zero waste and circular economy ambitions. This consultation invites views on the proposed priorities and actions to reach our waste, recycling and emissions reduction targets.

Package 2: Reduce food waste

Reduce food waste from all sources, building on our Food Waste Reduction Action Plan.

We will publish a review of progress towards our food waste reduction target in 2022, alongside an updated Food Waste Reduction Action Plan that sets out our plans to accelerate progress on food waste.

Current actions and commitments:

  • Our 2019 Food Waste Reduction Action Plan (FWRAP) sets out the actions we are taking to prevent food waste in Scotland. We will review and update the plan in 2022.
  • Run national communication campaigns to encourage positive food waste behaviour.
  • Support WRAP's Courtauld 2030 Commitment and maximise benefit for Scotland.
  • Fund food redistribution in Scotland via FareShare's 'Surplus With Purpose' scheme.

Proposed new actions:

  • Take powers to introduce mandatory public reporting of food surplus and waste.
  • Investigate the feasibility of food waste reduction action plans by 2024.
  • Intensify action to tackle household food waste, by developing a food waste behaviour change strategy and enhancing support for Scottish households to reduce food waste.
  • Provide enhanced support for businesses and organisations to reduce food waste and promote a circular bioeconomy.
  • Strengthen community food redistribution networks, including additional funding.

Focus of this package

Food waste is a global problem that has significant economic, environmental, and societal impacts. Almost one million tonnes of food and drink is thrown away every year in Scotland, with food wasted in the household representing around 20% of all food purchased in Scotland by weight.[48] Not only does this cost Scottish households an average of £440 per year,[49] but in 2018 food waste generated 2.648 million tonnes CO2eq:[50] 3.8% of Scotland's total carbon footprint.[51]

Tackling food waste is one of the most important ways we can reduce the carbon impact of Scotland's waste. When food waste is sent to landfill it releases methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. Some of these emissions can be avoided by recycling food waste (see Package 3). However, cutting down on food waste also reduces the 'upstream' emissions, and costs, associated with growing, harvesting, processing, transporting and buying food to begin with. UK research has suggested that achieving a 58% per capita reduction in food waste by 2050, would contribute up to 9.1 MtCO2e, and reduce cumulative emissions by 143 MtCO2e by 2050.[52]

We have a direct target to reduce food waste by 33% from 2013 to 2025. Scotland is also committed to achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve food waste by 2030. Given the potential residual value in food waste that can contribute to wider circular economy opportunities, a reduction would also significantly help to reach our targets to reduce waste, and the amount of waste sent to landfill, and greatly help us achieve our commitment to net zero by 2045.

What we want to achieve

We want to value our food and waste less of it. We want to reduce unnecessary demand for food; and improve how we produce, store, and cook food so that we waste less. This is a shared endeavour – everyone, from households to businesses, can work together to reduce food waste. We want to accelerate progress in tackling household food waste, by making the right choices the easier choices for individuals and communities. We also want to enable businesses to reduce their food waste by providing the infrastructure, expertise and support they need to implement food waste reduction activities and utilise food waste that cannot be prevented to create a circular bioeconomy.

Building on important action already underway, the measures proposed in this package aim to:

  • Address the whole food system

Our relationship with food is complex and influenced by many different factors. Food is a necessity, but one that we attach great social and cultural value to. We need to change our relationship with food and food waste from farm to fork, in order to create a more sustainable approach to food waste in our day to day lives. We will work together with colleagues in other areas of Scottish Government to ensure we take a whole system approach to reducing food waste, including through the Good Food Nation process, which will require Scottish Ministers to prepare and publish a national Good Food Nation Plan.

  • Reset our attitude to food waste

Many people are aware of the environmental benefits of cutting food waste, and its potential to reduce food poverty. However, so far this hasn't significantly changed our behaviour, in the same way we have seen for issues like plastic pollution. We need to increase awareness of food waste's economic impacts and its effect on climate change and ensure everyone is supported to make positive changes.

  • Enhance our circular bioeconomy

The complexity of the food system and fact that some food waste, like inedible parts, is unavoidable means that there will always be some food waste and surplus. Maximising the value of this resource presents new economic opportunities and reduces the demand for material from elsewhere.

  • Give us better data to understand our progress

Existing data on food waste are not collected regularly, and give little insight into what, and where, food is being wasted. A lack of data makes it challenging to assess progress, and to focus effort where it will have the greatest impact. Better data will enable individual businesses, organisations, and households to identify how much food they waste and help them understand where to take action.

  • Recover from COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way food is produced, sold, purchased, and consumed. We need to understand how the pandemic has affected food waste – for better or for worse – to recover in a way that builds towards our food waste ambitions.

Where we are now

In 2019 we published a Food Waste Reduction Action Plan (FWRAP),[53] which set out the actions we are taking to help reach our 33% food waste reduction target by 2025. The FWRAP committed to action across four key areas:

1. Improved monitoring and infrastructure: improve our monitoring, measurement and reporting of food waste across all sectors.

2. Sector leadership: support leadership, innovation, effectiveness and efficiency in Scotland's public, private and hospitality sectors.

3. Public engagement and communications: deliver a sustained programme of communications designed to raise awareness and highlight ways to address to food waste.

4. A new approach to food waste: Drive effective change throughout the food supply chain through a new Food Waste Hub.

COVID-19 has significantly disrupted all food waste producing sectors, and also means we lack much of the data we need to assess progress. In 2018, food waste in Scotland was estimated to be 4% below the 2013 baseline,[54] broadly in line with the UK reduction reported by WRAP.[55] There is some evidence that the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 led to a 43% reduction in household food waste across the UK, but this appears to have rebounded as lockdowns have relaxed.[56] While there is a high degree of uncertainty around food waste data, we are clear that we are not seeing the speed and scale on change we would need to meet the 33% target.

The FWRAP baseline indicated that households accounted for almost two thirds of food waste in Scotland, with the manufacturing sector generating around a quarter, and the rest coming from other sectors (hospitality, public sector, retail). Most action to date has focused on food businesses, where cost savings provide a strong incentive to reduce food waste. Beyond communication campaigns,[57] few policies have yet sought to directly address food waste in the home. We acknowledge the scale of the household food waste challenge, while recognising that the wider food environment - how food is marketed, packaged and sold – influences how we value and use food.

What we have done

The Food Waste Reduction Business Support Service, run by Zero Waste Scotland, identified over £4 million in cost savings, 15,000 tonnes of food waste savings, 31,000 tonnes of CO2eq savings, and almost £2 million of potential revenue.

We have delivered a number of communications campaigns to raise awareness of food waste. Our 'Food Gone Bad' campaign ran in 2019 and again in 2022, encouraging people to reduce their food waste, and recycle the food waste they can't prevent.

We provided £200,000 of funding to FareShare's 'Surplus with Purpose' scheme in 2021/22. Scottish potato supplier Albert Bartlett recently announced that they have redistributed the equivalent of five million meals through its partnership with FareShare with this support.

Zero Waste Scotland have worked with NHS Scotlandto tackle food waste in healthcare settings. Research has identified data gaps in NHSS food waste data and regional board action plans will incorporate activities to address them, ensuring all contributors to the healthcare food waste system in Scotland are fully engaging in developing solutions.

We are signatories to the Courtauld Commitment (2025), a voluntary agreement that brings together a host of organisations across the food system to reduce total UK food waste by 20% per person by 2025 against a 2015 baseline.

What we are already doing

[From 2022]

We will publish a review of the FWRAP in 2022, alongside an updated action plan that builds on our experience of delivery over the last three years. This will describe in detail our updated plans to accelerate progress on food waste. The review will:

  • Provide an analytical assessment of progress towards the target, updated national sectoral food waste estimates, and an update of the commercial and industrial (C&I) baseline.
  • Review progress against the existing actions in the original FWRAP and how those actions should be progressed and/or incorporated into the updated actions.
  • Focus on the new approach to the FWRAP - creating an environment that enables businesses, organisations, communities, and members of the public to implement actions that will accelerate food waste reduction.

[From 2022]

We will renew our relationship with the Waste and Resources Action Programme's (WRAP) Courtauld Commitment 2030, a voluntary agreement which will commit Scotland to engaging in collaborative action across the entire UK food chain to deliver farm-to-fork reductions in food waste, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water stress. We will maximise the benefit of this relationship for Scotland's businesses and people, working with WRAP experts to implement bespoke projects focused on driving positive sectoral and household behaviour change on food waste.

Key activities for Courtauld 2030 will include engaging the UK food sector in Scope 3 GHG emissions measurement and reporting guidance for the food chain and UK-wide roll out of proven behaviour change interventions at scale. When appropriate, Scotland may be used to pilot interventions before being rolled out.

[From 2022]

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and Zero Waste Scotland are designing a joint public engagement strategy to improve consumer awareness of date labels and associated waste reduction behaviours.

What we are proposing to do

The measures set out in our 2019 Food Waste Reduction Action Plan[58] have provided a good start. However, we know that we haven't yet seen the scale or pace of change we need. We need to go further and faster, to reach more people and businesses across Scotland, and to scale up and expand on the action we have already seen.


1. We will take powers to introduce mandatory public reporting of food surplus and waste[†]

We propose to take enabling powers to enable mandatory public annual reporting of surplus and waste of specific waste streams, and we have already set out our intention to consult on mandatory reporting of Scotland's food surplus and waste. Subject to further consultation through the Circular Economy Bill, we propose that food surplus and waste by Scottish food businesses would be one of the first waste streams to be subject to mandatory public reporting.


2. We will investigate the feasibility of food waste action plans by 2024

We propose to investigate whether voluntary or mandatory individual food waste reduction action plans for food businesses and public sector organisations would be effective in driving action towards our food waste reduction target in 2025, and our commitment to achieving the UN's Sustainable Developments Goals of a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030. Food waste reduction action plans could compliment mandatory reporting of food waste and surplus by encouraging businesses and organisations to take the lead on positive food waste behaviour across society.


3. We will intensify action to tackle household food waste, developing a behaviour change strategy by the end of 2022 and enhancing support for Scottish households to reduce food waste.

We propose to develop a behaviour change strategy, informed by behaviour change pilot studies, to provide insights into the behaviours, knowledge, capabilities, opportunities and motivations associated with reduced food waste, with a particular focus on households. This will necessarily take account of the individual, social, and material contexts that influence our behaviour, and seek to help move individuals and businesses from awareness and engagement, through to measurement and implementation, and ultimately to reduction of food waste. Once published, the behaviour change strategy will act as our evidence-led foundation for the design of further interventions.

We propose to review and update our education and training tools, online and digital services, and advice and guidance, to help members of the public move from awareness to action.


4. We will enhance support for Scottish businesses and organisations to reduce food waste and engage with the circular bioeconomy

We propose to review and update our education and training tools, online and digital services, and advice and guidance, to help businesses move from awareness to action. We will build on our existing assets such as the Love Food Hate Waste workplace training, sector-specific best practice guides, and public procurement guidance. We will evaluate their use and efficacy, and integrate new evidence and learning from pilot projects. We will work collaboratively with sectors and businesses to ensure that assets have real world relevance and application.

We will investigate the optimal types of support required by businesses and organisations to implement food waste reduction activities, as well as researching further incentives for research, development, commercialisation, and adoption of bioprocessing technologies that can utilise food waste to create a circular bioeconomy.[59] We will update the bioresource map of Scotland, develop a bioeconomy task force, and continue our strategic partnership with IBioIC.[60] If necessary, we will scope and develop new assets by 2023, potentially including an online portal to bring together information and best practice, or digital interfaces to support food waste reporting.

We also propose to make more strategic use of Zero Waste Scotland's Food Waste Reduction Business Support Service, by focusing on higher impact businesses that can also provide opportunities for other businesses, organisations, and households to reduce their food waste. This service will be aligned with other waste reduction support services, including redistribution support and WRAP's UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap; a suite of tools and actions for the food industry to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3.[61]


5. We will continue to support food redistribution in Scotland in 2022 and focus on actions to best move food up the waste hierarchy

Due to the lack of Scottish-specific data in this sector to date, there are currently no reliable figures on the scale of opportunity in Scotland. However, estimates of food redistributed by the largest redistribution organisations in the UK gathered by WRAP since 2015 have demonstrated a continued increase. Between 2015 and 2020, WRAP reports that redistribution of surplus food has tripled, seeing a 450% increase via charities and 66% via the commercial sectors. The food redistributed by these major organisations in 2020 amounts to an estimated value of £289 million.[62]

We will review our funding approach for food redistribution to focus on action at the top end of the waste hierarchy, while taking in to account acute pressures such as the cost of living crisis. We will look to engage with third sector partners to support immediate action on food redistribution and better data collection while researching the requirements for a support service for community redistribution based on international best practice and the demand, legal implications, barriers, nature and geographical distribution of existing services.

Figure 5: Actions to reduce food waste
This shows the proposed timeline of existing and new proposed actions by the Scottish Government to reduce food waste, from 2022 to 2030. These measures are set out in the text above.

Consultation questions

Question 3. To what extent do you agree with the measures proposed in this package to reduce food waste? Please provide evidence to support any identified opportunities and challenges associated with the measures in your answer if possible.

[Strongly agree / Agree / Neither agree nor disagree / Disagree / Strongly disagree / Not answered]

Question 4. Are there any further measures that you would like to see included in the Route Map to reduce food waste?



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