Food thrown out by House of Commons doubles in three years

Food waste thrown out by the House of Commons has more than doubled in the last three years - leading senior MPs to demand action.

New figures reveal that in the last year a "staggering" 282 tonnes of food was discarded by parliamentary estate caterers -- the equivalent of 21 London buses in weight.

The Commons Commission, which is responsible for the administration of the estate, said it takes "various measures to monitor and reduce the amount of food waste".

However the volume of waste has increased by more than 100% since 2015 -- rising from 130 tonnes to 228 in 2016/12 and 282 this year.

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on food waste and sits on the Commons Environment Committee, told the Press Association the figures were "staggering" and that she would be seeking a meeting with House authorities to discuss the matter further.

She said: "Parliament is a signatory to a voluntary hospitality and food service agreement facilitated by (charity) Wrap for reducing food waste - which I and other food waste APPG colleagues encouraged it to join a few years ago - but it seems this has had no positive effect."

When approached for comment, a Commons spokesman pointed to the fact that waste was "below the national average" and that it was sent to an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility, but Ms McCarthy described this response as "disappointing".

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy
Labour MP Kerry McCarthy

She said: "It's disappointing this increase is not considered particularly problematic because the food waste is sent to anaerobic digestion. Even though it is more environmentally preferable to send it to anaerobic digestion ahead of landfill and incineration, it is nonetheless still wasted.

"AD should ideally be used for food waste that couldn't otherwise be prevented or re-used - such as egg shells and banana skins - with the primary focus on prevention and overseeing a decline in the overall amount that's wasted."

Ms McCarthy said she hoped the estate could match its bold commitments on eliminating single-use plastics from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, adding: "I will now raise with them how food waste can be reduced alongside these efforts."

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas also shared her disappointment at the figures.

"We should be leading the way in tackling this problem," she said.

"We know that food waste contributes to climate change and other environmental problems - and the UK Parliament should be at the forefront of tackling this problem.

"I'd like to know why this problem is getting worse - and see the parliamentary authorities act quickly to reduce the amount of food waste year on year."

Labour MP Mary Creagh, who chairs the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, told the Press Association there was also a broader problem of food waste -- with the UK sending six million tonnes to landfill each year.

Ocean protection inquiry
Ocean protection inquiry

She said: "The most effective way to boost recycling and tackle the six million tonnes of food waste the UK sends to landfill every year would be for ministers to support councils to introduce a separate food waste collection.

"The Government plans to ban food waste going to landfill by 2030, and Parliament - like every organisation in the country - will have to meet this target preferably well in advance of then."

A Commons spokesman said: "The Commons catering outlets serve tens of thousands of customers annually and our food waste from prepared dishes is well below the national average for the catering industry.

"Food waste segregated from catering areas is sent to an anaerobic digestion facility to produce both 'biofertiliser' and methane gas for energy generation."

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