Wageningen University launches task force to fight food waste

The Dutch Task Force says it will put ideas into action ©iStock

A new organisation aimed at reducing food waste has kicked off in the Netherlands, but how will it succeed where a plethora of other initiatives have failed?

Launched during the Netherlands’ National Food Summit - an annual food industry conference, the ‘Circular Economy in Food Taskforce’ says it will contribute to the current pool of anti-waste initiatives by connecting the hitherto ‘fragmented’ efforts, and enacting real solutions immediately rather than prolonging research. 

Founded by Wageningen University in coalition with the Dutch Ministry for Economic Affairs and the Sustainable Food Alliance (a consortium of Dutch groups such as the Retail Association) the Taskforce aims to act as a ‘think-tank and a source of inspiration’ for businesses along the supply chain to reduce waste.

The project is part of the existing programme Resource Efficient Food and Drink for the Entire Supply Chain (REFRESH) which was established in 2015 and given €9 million funding by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme to help reduce food waste in the EU.

Toine Timmermans, manager of the Taskforce programme, told FoodNavigator he took over 18 months organising the Taskforce in order to start putting REFRESH research to practical use.

“It started from our realising the inconvenient truth - we’ve been working for five years but were unable to solve the issue, despite some progress being made nothing really changed” he said.

Currently 25 businesses including Unilever and Royal DSM, and seven ambassadors - leaders from these companies, have joined the Taskforce; Timmermans said it aims to have over 100 businesses involved before 2018.  

Waste opportunities

A recent report by the EU court of auditors heavily criticised the EU’s current efforts to reduce food waste, observing poor organisation and poor achievements, despite millions of euros in funding and years of organisation.

Money was poured into research programmes that were disorganised and ineffective, it said, and noted that there was still not even a unified definition of what ‘food waste’ means.

Timmermans said the new Taskforce is aimed at addressing these criticisms head on and making practical changes on the ground.

“We don’t need one solution we need thousands of solutions and we need to create the environment for those solutions to grow – policy wise, production wise and also consumption wise – and this is essential.

“I think the main point of the court of auditors is that all the discussions were not being translated into action. The Taskforce will come up with 30 – 40 pilot projects to be enacted this year alone, and we will demonstrate how profitable and effective combatting waste can be” he said.

Timmermans admitted that real, systemic solutions cannot be achieved in the Netherlands alone and must be international.

“Currently the Dutch Taskforce is by far the most advanced, but we are working on similar Taskforces in Germany, Hungary, Spain and China. We make a strong connection with the United Nations sustainability goals, and we know the only way to achieve this is at the highest possible level.”

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