Industry Food Waste Audit Proposal (IFWAP), 2012-13


The Industry food waste audit proposal (IFWAP) is This is Rubbish’s (TiR) first research project on industrial level food waste. Funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, it exists to open dialogue with individuals and organizations across the food supply chain, to gather information on perceived opportunities and barriers relating to the introduction of an industry wide food waste audit. TiR are working with a research team, consisting of Project Coordinator, Research Coordinator, Research Consultant, an intern, a group of volunteers and two project Mentors. It starts in October and runs until the end of February.  Towards the end of the project TiR will be seeking further funding to conduct more in depth industry wide food waste audit research and continue their campaigning work.


Food waste is on UK and EU political agendas. The British government has addressed the issue in reports such as Food 2030, The Foresight Future of Food and Farming Report, and Defra’s Waste Strategy for England. The UK government and WRAP are currently rolling out voluntary industry agreements on food waste, such as the Courtauld Commitment 2. These are gaining far reaching support from food businesses. Since the 1990’s it has been politically fashionable to introduce voluntary behavior change mechanisms such as voluntary codes of conduct, advice and public league tables that name and shame. Such softly ‘softly’ policy approaches are seen in government- funded initiatives such as Love Food Hate Waste, WRAP’s food waste research work and the Courtauld Commitment 1 & 2, which set voluntary, low mixed- and food-waste reduction targets for businesses that sign up. These approaches are not working: the focus is overly directed at households, and industry-facing agreements such as the Courtauld Commitment are too unambitous to bring any significant change.

It is time for the government to be bold, and lead the way in introducing food waste audits that are legally binding and mandatory. Any governmental policy change needs to clearly follow the waste hierarchy: food waste must first be prevented, reduced, and then redistributed. The aim of food sustainability should to be to produce zero food waste, and policy change should focus on creating far reaching, large scale preventative change.

TiR are calling for clear, potentially feasible policy led change to tackle the shocking problem of industry food waste. Existing policy change proposals to rectify the current surplus scandal are being mooted. They include the introduction of mandatory food waste audits and reduction targets, with a basic proposal of reducing food waste levels (2009) by 50% over a five-year period. 1 There are also calls to introduce a food waste charge, incentivising food surplus being redirected to redistribution organisations such as Fareshare and Foodcycle. Other ideas include funding allocated to research and development of food technology to extract maximum value from food waste products and co products, along with banning sending food waste to landfill.

With increasing numbers of public awareness-raising food waste campaigns and activists, there is a growing democratic mandate for the government to take effective action. Organisations such as TiR work with the public, the food industry and the government to help communication, and more importantly to consolidate agreements from various camps that government-led regulation is the best method of food waste prevention. The UK government has shown commitment to taking decisive action to prevent waste, such as the 2011 move to ban the “sell-by” date on food packaging to in a bid to cut the £12bn worth of food needlessly binned every year. Although this remains a token gesture, and distracts from the larger and systemic causes of waste, it is an insight into a political climate that sees value in taking action on food waste.

Of the 16 million tones of food waste generated each year, the food industry is responsible for generating approx 60% while households generate 40%. 2 Taking existing evidence into account, large scale industry wide change is required. To quickly prevent and reduce the amount of good food being wasted, governments need to roll out two key regulations for the food industry: mandatory food waste audits and ambitious, mandatory food waste reduction targets. The IFWAP project will inform This is Rubbish’s future campaigns calling for the introductions of such regulations.

1. T. Stuart, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, London, 2009 Penguin, p. 89.
2. HM Government,  Food 2030, London, 2010 P. 54.

IFWAP is a pilot research project that aims to measure perceived opportunities and barriers to the introduction of a mandatory industry wide food waste audit. Conducting standardized interviews with sample groups from across the industrial food supply chain, questionnaires will seek to answer the following key questions. These questions will shape the content of the research questionnaires.

1.    Does your business currently encounter preventable quantities of surplus food?
2.    What systems are in place to prevent food surplus occurring along the food supply chain?
3.    Does your business currently conduct food waste audits of any kind?
4.    What do you think the barriers and opportunities are to the introduction of mandatory food waste audits?
5.    What food waste prevention system would best suit your business?
6.    Would you trial a food waste audit tool in the future?

IFWAP will measure industry perceptions of the function of mandatory food waste audits by interviewing;

•    5 Food waste policy makers / academics
•    5 MP’s
•    5 Food producers
•    5processors
•    5 distributors
•    5 Retailers


The Objectives of IFWAP are as follows:

•        To conduct research into perceived financial and time costs of the introduction of industry wide mandatory food waste audits

•          To consult current policy change researchers and industry experts about the challenges and risks involved with industry food waste audits

•        To build positive, transparent relationships across the board with project stakeholders

•        To evaluate IFWAP outcomes, and publish in a vibrant and accessible document online

•        To produce two separate outcome overview documents, one for policy makers and one for media use

•        To inform the 3 year This is Rubbish food waste campaign strategy


  •     Development of key industry/policy facing relationships. In the research-planning phase of IFWAP, relationships will be developed with key politicians, food producers, retailers and policy writers.
  •     Conduct interviews and gather data on perceived value of introduction of food waste audit policies: Standardised interviews will be conducted across the food industry, gathering data to exploring industry readiness to implement mandatory food waste audits.
  •     Evaluate and Publish findings. An evaluation document will be planned, written and published, communicating the findings of IFWAP. We will distribute this document digitally and in print through our existing and newly established networks.
  •     Engagement of key campaign partners. TiR will present research findings to various policy change partners. Fostering such relationships will encourage public debate on the proposal, as well as raising an awareness and understanding of food waste and associated environmental and social impacts. If it is deemed impossible to introduce mandatory food waste audits, TiR will engage policy and campaign partners to discuss practical direction over 2013 – 2014.


IFWAP is supported by a range of organisations including

  • Forum for the Future
  • Fabian Society
  • Kerry McCarthy
  • Foodcycle
  • Waste Watch
  • Plan Zero heros
  • Food Ethics Council
  • Eco Studio
  • FAO
  • Fareshare

The project is also supported by an advisory peer group. The group is made up of food waste experts and academics; Geoff Tansey, Martin Caraher, Ian Cox, Lindsay Boswell, Natan Doran,Tim Burns,Robert Van Otterdijk,Sean Roberts, Adrian Morely, Kerry McCarthy.

If you would like to endorse or support the project, please email