Posted by: tagnotowasteplant | June 4, 2014

Cheaper to send surplus food to AD than hungry families

Supermarkets give only 2% of their surplus food to charities because subsidies make it cheaper to send it to AD.  Whilst we are not against Anaerobic Digestion as long as AD plants are sited away from communities, we do feel the government should change their focus to make donating surplus food to charities like Fareshare the cheapest option.

A report in The Times highlights the problem, 3rd June 2014:

Supermarkets are wasting thousands of tonnes of surplus food because subsidies for green energy make it cheaper to turn it into biogas than to donate it to hungry families, according to a leading charity.

The government is spending millions of pounds subsidising the construction and operation of anaerobic digestion plants that are converting up to 100,000 tonnes of edible food a year into biogas, FareShare said.

The subsidies mean that retailers and their suppliers can dispose of surplus food much more cheaply by sending it to these plants rather than delivering it to charities.

Frank Field, the former Labour welfare minister leading an inquiry into food poverty, said that the subsidy system was “madness on stilts”. He has called for it to be reformed to make donating surplus food the cheapest option for the industry.

“We live in a country where people are hungry yet we are using taxpayers’ money to destroy edible food,” he said.

Mr Field’s inquiry found that only 2 per cent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of surplus food produced annually by the industry was redistributed to charities.

FareShare, which redistributes 5,000 tonnes of surplus food a year to 1,300 charities and community projects, said that the subsidies for anaerobic digestion could be in breach of a directive that requires waste to be re-used where possible before being turned into energy.

Mark Varney, FareShare’s director of food, said that anaerobic digesters were paid a subsidy worth £60 to £70 for each tonne of food they received.

FareShare has to charge retailers and other companies £60 to £80 for each tonne of food they donate in order to cover its storage and distribution costs.

The donors also have to pay £20 to £60 a tonne to deliver the food to FareShare’s depots. Mr Varney said: “Operators [of anaerobic digestion plants] receive an incentive that we don’t get. I’m up against that economic obstacle when I talk to the food industry and they say, ‘Well, actually, we have got an arrangement with this operator who comes and picks up the food.’ ”

He added that the government should match the subsidy for anaerobic digestion with support for the system of redistributing food. “The fact is, money talks in business. If I didn’t have to charge the industry to take the food off them, it would be easier for us to persuade them to give us food.”

Mr Varney said FareShare had appealed to the government to create a fairer system of subsidies “but our understanding is it’s not seen as a priority, which is clearly frustrating when there are five to seven million people in food poverty”.

Anaerobic digestion plants received £29 million in subsidy in the year to March 2013, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

There are 82 plants consuming 1.6 million tonnes of food waste a year. Another 213 plants have planning permission and are expected to consume an additional 3.3 million tonnes of food, according to the Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas Association.

WRAP, the government waste reduction agency, offers cheap loans to encourage the construction of anaerobic digestion plants. An agency spokesman admitted that it was “likely” that some of the food sent to the plants was fit for human consumption but it did not know how much and did “not have any plans” to investigate the scale of the problem.

WRAP, the government waste reduction agency, offers cheap loans to encourage the construction of anaerobic digestion plants. An agency spokesman admitted that it was “likely” that some of the food sent to the plants was fit for human consumption but it did not know how much and did “not have any plans” to investigate the scale of the problem.

Tesco said that it donated 2,300 tonnes of food to charity last year and wasted 56,000 tonnes in its stores and distribution centres.

It initially claimed in response to questions that none of the 56,000 tonnes had been suitable for human consumption because it had been damaged or past its “use by” date.

The retailer later clarified this to say that “much of” the food had been unfit for human consumption. Some of it had exceeded its “best before” date but could still have been safely eaten.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We are currently working with our charity partner FareShare to send food that is suitable for human consumption to people in need.”

A government spokesman said:“The government works closely with the food industry to encourage action to prevent waste — where appropriate surplus food should first be re-used for human consumption before it is considered for generating energy.”

Uneaten and thrown away

  • British households throw away
    4.2 million tonnes of food a year.
  • Reducing food waste in the home could save the average family £700 a year. (Source: WRAP)
  • Each year 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of edible food is sent to landfill sites, anaerobic digestion plants or fed to animals by the food industry. (Source: FareShare)
  • Only 2 per cent of surplus food generated by the food industry is redistributed. (Source: all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty)

Frank Field report

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