Food waste: review of 2019 waste reduction action plan

A review of food waste reduction progress in Scotland following publication of the Food Waste Reduction Action Plan in 2019.

1 Introduction

Food waste is a global problem that has significant economic, environmental, and societal impacts. Tackling food waste is one of the most effective 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 through processes like composting or anaerobic digestion. However, preventing food waste in the first place is far more beneficial as it also reduces the ‘upstream’ emissions, and costs, associated with growing, harvesting, processing, transporting and buying food to begin with.

The FWRAP was published in 2019 and set out a pathway to achieving the Scottish Government’s ambitions to reduce food waste in Scotland by 33% by 2025, using 2013 food waste estimates as a baseline.

Since 2019, the importance of tackling the global problem of food waste and its impact on the climate crisis has only increased: the UN Environment Programme Food Waste Index Report 2021[1] highlighted that global food waste could be twice the size of previous estimates of 1 billion tonnes of food wasted each year, and not just restricted to high income countries[2].

Scotland’s Climate Change Plan (Climate Change Plan: The Third Report on Proposals and Policies 2018-2032), published in 2018, set a target to reduce per capita food waste by 33% from 2013 to 2025. Scotland is also committed to working towards UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG); therefore, the 2025 target is intended to act as a step on the way to the UN SDG 12.3 of a 50% reduction in per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and a reduction in food losses along the production and supply chains by 2030.

UK research has suggested that achieving a 58% per capita reduction in food waste by 2050, would contribute up to 9.1 MtCO2e to the 6th Carbon Budget[3], the equivalent of removing 5.6 million cars from UK roads for the year in 2020, and reduce cumulative emissions by 143 MtCO2e by 2050[4].

The 33% target is also one of Scotland’s 5 ambitious waste and recycling targets set to drive progress towards a circular economy[5]. In 2022, the Scottish Government consulted on proposals for a Circular Economy and Waste Route Map in order to accelerate progress against these targets in a way that maximises emissions reduction[6]. The Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill was introduced in June 2023[7] to establish the legislative framework to support Scotland’s transition to a zero waste and circular economy. Reducing food waste will help Scotland achieve the 15% reduction of all waste by 2025 and the 5% of waste to landfill targets and the forthcoming ban on landfilling biodegradable municipal waste. Beyond waste targets, reducing food waste in Scotland can also help deliver our ambition to become a Good Food Nation, as outlined in the Scottish Government’s forthcoming national Good Food Nation Plan, as well as helping businesses and households save money, which is increasingly important during a cost-of-living crisis[8] and high food inflation[9], where over a third of people are concerned about affording food in the next month[10].

The Circular Economy (Scotland) Bill and proposals for the Circular Economy and Waste Route Map highlight the impact of food waste and set out a range of legislative and non-legislative measures to tackle it. We want to improve how we produce, purchase, store, and cook food so that we waste less. This is a shared endeavour – everyone, from households to primary producers, can work together to reduce food waste. 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.

This Review aims to reflect on the wide ranging activity undertaken in Scotland since 2019.

The review is divided into four sections:

1. The introduction reviews the changes in the Scottish, UK and global context since the publication of the FWRAP.

2. The second section reviews key actions from the 2019 FWRAP and describes the progress against those actions.

3. The third part describes what difference the actions have made to the amount of food waste in Scotland and the lessons learnt, 4 years on from the publication of the plan.

4. The final part reflects on the findings from the review to help inform our future approach.



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