Joining forces to tackle food waste in Bristol: the quest for gold

According to a report by the United Nations, approximately one third of food produced in the world is lost or wasted. One third. In a world that is professed to be over populated and with huge inequalities. Meanwhile, the carbon emissions of global food waste equate to the size of the third largest polluting country in the world, after the US and China. [1]

In the UK, the challenge equates to more than £17Billion worth of food waste[2]. If we equate that to individual pockets, that is £810 of food thrown away by the average UK family each year.

Tackling carbon and poverty in Bristol

In Bristol, food waste is a real challenge, especially if we are to meet the target of carbon neutrality by 2030 agreed by the council in 2018. But this is not just a question of carbon; how do we square food waste with the fact that 20,000 people in this city are using a food bank to meet their daily food needs and 25% of Bristol’s children live below the poverty line?

Delivering progress

Fortunately, these are motivating figures and there is a lot going on in Bristol to combat the issue. One of the many projects that Resource Futures supports is the Food Waste Action Group, which has been brought together to realise Bristol’s ambition to become one of the first UK gold standard Sustainable Food Cities, a national programme which encourages and recognises positive change that cities around the country are making to their food systems and culture.

Going for gold

To achieve the gold award Bristol needs to demonstrate ‘excellence’ in two food related themes – whilst continuing to build evidence of progress across a total of six food related areas. Bristol has selected Food Waste and ‘Buying Better’ as the two areas of excellence and our team at Resource Futures are driving the food waste initiatives. The other four areas cover Urban Growing, Community Action, Eating Better and Food Equality. Work in all areas will build on the Silver Award which was achieved in 2016.

The Food Waste Action Group brings together organisations in Bristol to take a lead on a range of food waste reduction work across the city. Through collaboration across key sectors, the group aims to maximize synergies between existing initiatives and so build greater momentum.

The action group’s members include Bristol Waste Company, GENeco Wessex Water, FareShare South West, Bristol University, Bristol City Council, Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Bristol Food Network along with a number of independents representing catering, procurement and communications. The group is chaired by Resource Futures and we are making good progress.

Why support Going for Gold?

Going for Gold is a unique opportunity to mobilise city-wide action on issues which affect us all. To achieve Gold, we need to show that this is a city-wide effort as we demonstrate progress in all six food-related issues – it can’t be achieved through the work of a few foodies alone, and we really want everyone to be involved.

Progress on food waste means action at a number of different levels. Much like the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra that we consider for general waste, there is also a food waste hierarchy. The first objective must be to reduce food waste, secondly redistribute avoidable food waste and lastly recycle unavoidable food waste.

What does ‘avoidable food waste’ mean? For the sake of clarity ‘avoidable’ may be food where the packaging has been damaged but is otherwise fully edible; food where the use by dates have passed; food wastage from buying too much or simply over catering with over-sized portions. Unavoidable food waste on the other hand is the parts that cannot normally be eaten – like meat bones, the shell of a coconut and the skin of oranges. What does that mean for items like vegetable peelings and bread crusts? Whilst perfectly edible, these are often discarded for taste preferences so fall between the two categories – ‘possibly avoidable’?!

So, what can businesses do to support the fight against food waste?

You can find lots of suggested actions on the Going for Gold website, where you can also report what good food actions you’re currently doing, what you intend to do, and any changes you’ve made, as your contribution to Going for Gold – so:

·       Register your company on the Going for Gold website and start taking action (you could conduct a food waste audit, appoint a food waste champion or create a ‘take-less’ culture).

·       Publicly share your support of the campaign with your employees and customers – and encourage them to sign up too. Use the hashtag #goingforgoldbristol and follow @Bristolfoodnet

·       Attend the first Going for Gold Business Breakfast on food waste, scheduled for 22 May. Registration is free and suited to all Bristol businesses who do not specifically work in food.

The Going for Gold ambition is being coordinated and supported by a range of partners and sponsors including Bristol Food Network, Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Bristol City Council as part of the One City Bristol initiative – check out the website to find out more.


Guest Blogger;

Sarah Hargreaves

Senior Consultant at Resource Futures and co-ordinator of Food Waste Action Group

A specialist in communications and behaviour change at Resource Futures, Sarah has a masters in environmental management and a particular interest in food waste. A co-founder of FoodCycle Hub in Bath and a leading campaigner for food waste recycling since 2012, Sarah has taken food waste campaigns from doorsteps to schools and businesses across all four local authorities in the South West and beyond.


[1]Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

[2] WRAP