Voluntary agreement looking more likely to be end of June

THE LONG-AWAITED voluntary agreement on waste for the hospitality sector looking more likely to be end of June with many more hurdles to overcome.


A progress report of the Government’s waste review 2011 stated that development of the so-called  ‘Hospitality and Food Service Agreement’ is “on track” and is “expected to be launched in May 2012”. However sources in the industry have suggested that a May launch is unlikely and that end of June is more realistic.


The agreement will have two targets: to reduce food and packaging waste, and to increase the proportion of waste being recycled, composted or sent to anaerobic digestion (AD).


Companies who sign up will report on their waste and their management of it, receiving support from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to ensure targets are met.


WRAP is leading the process after its success with a similar agreement for the grocery sector. However, today it remained tight-lipped over whether the agreement would be delivered in May.


In a consultation over Christmas, WRAP proposed a cut in food and packaging waste of 5% among signatories and an increase in waste recycled, composted or sent to AD from 47% to 70%. These targets would be against a 2011 baseline. If met, 418,000 tonnes of waste would be diverted from landfill, saving businesses £76m – and that’s if just 25% of the sector, by turnover, sign up.


Given the complexity of the hospitality sector compared to grocery, the benefits of such a scheme are still in doubt (June’s Foodservice Footprint will include an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of an agreement).


The most demanding challenge could be to ensure a sufficient percentage of businesses sign up given the cost of collecting the required data and issues over responsibility. Contract caterers, for instance, can operate from premises where they are not responsible for the waste created.


These and many more obstacles were raised at a Footprint Roundtable in July.  However, the Roundtable also showed there was an appetite for change.


Unilever Food Solutions (UFS), who are working closely with WRAP on the development of the voluntary agreement, has already pioneered a successful scheme of its own and is upbeat about the prospects of the ambitious project.


This spring will also see the launch of a new initiative to matchmake UK businesses with their ideal food waste partners.


According to WRAP, the hospitality sector produces 3.4 million tonnes of waste, of which 1.6 million tonnes is recycled, re-used or composted. That leaves almost 1.5 million tonnes, much of which is sent to landfill.