In mid-August, Defra published an important paper, setting out its initial proposals for the legally-binding, long-term environmental targets it intends to include in the Environment Bill. These are a vital element in the UK’s transition from EU Member State to independent country, ensuring that we continue to uphold high environmental standards after we leave the European Union.
The correlation between fixing our dysfunctional, unsustainable and inequitable food system and tackling climate change is clear. In fact, it has become one of the pressing issues of our time. How are we going to feed and nourish a growing population, encourage economic development and tackle climate change at the same time?
This blog is about success and I'm proud to highlight it.
I recently read a fascinating infographic produced by Green Alliance, proposing a step change in the UK’s resource efficiency as one of five policies that could, together, plug the significant gap between our current climate policies and what is needed to deliver the Government’s new ‘net zero’ carbon target by 2050.
I can’t think of many locations in film which are quite as evocative as the sweeping landscapes of Lawrence of Arabia. They were partly filmed in Morocco, a country I am excited to finally discover this week. As always, though, the romantic in me has been tempered by my scientist alter-ego. Because I am learning that behind all the exotic charms of this beautiful country, there lies a more bleak reality.
I was talking to an economist friend over a drink last weekend, and he told me about the Cobra Effect. It is based on an amusing tale from Delhi in the 19th Century.
The first Chair of WRAP, Vic Cocker, thought that WRAP only needed to exist for a few years. The then Government had given WRAP a very specific job to do – find markets for the increasing quantity of recyclables being collected from households, as policy-makers aimed to push the UK up the European recycling league table. It worked – in 2000, at WRAP’s inception, household recycling was 11%, and the UK was in the bottom three performers in the EU in terms of the proportion of waste sent to landfill. However, by 2010, the recycling rate was just over 40%, and the UK was firmly fixed in the middle of the EU league table.
At WRAP, we have done a lot of work making the business case for sustainability; demonstrating how it is possible to strike the balance between what is good for a company’s profit line and for the planet.
We believe that we have to shift from the linear make, use, dispose culture to a circular one which embeds sustainable production and consumption and prevents us from plundering the planet’s precious resources. This is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must do’ and that business, government, and all of us as citizens have a responsibility to make that happen.
I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself: I’ve just tweaked the temperature control dial in our fridge. And it’s shocking to think that if every household made sure their fridges were no warmer than 5°C, the loss of milk in the UK each year would be cut by 50,000 tonnes. These lost ‘pintas’ cost a remarkable £25 million.
In 2005, when we first embarked on our ambitious journey to tackle food and packaging waste in the UK through an expansive voluntary agreement which aimed to span the whole of the supply chain, there was a good helping of scepticism.
How could we keep a huge, complex industry, often with competing interests, in an increasingly volatile economic environment, united under a single goal: to reduce waste and cut the resources needed to provide UK’s food & drink?