Tuesday, 23 August 2011

WRAP's distortions feed bad policy

WRAP is one of the quangos I really looked forward to seeing abolished; it's founded on outright mendacity, scare tactics, creating problems where no real problems exist and ruthless self-publicity. Sadly, the muppets in Cameron's government seem deaf to the nonsense this bunch of nannying Statists are spouting. Take their latest food waste campaign. They claim that:

  • Households waste £57 a month each of food
  • Restaurants produce 600,000 tonnes a year of food waste 

These claims seemed so outrageous that R4's 'Farming Today' investigated them. A BBC / Comres poll found that households estimated 'wasting' only some £10 of food a month, and of the restaurant waste, 30% is 'plate waste', i.e. what customers leave uneaten, 65% is preparation waste and only 5% is throwing-away out of date or degraded foodstuff. Thus contrary to WRAP's message, restaurant businesses are in fact closely controlling the waste-source that they should be. 

Some of the spurious calculations behind WRAP's mendacity are easy; some require some knowledge of catering business planning. First, take potatoes. WRAP classifies the entire raw potato, including soil traces, eyes, black bits and the skin as 'food'. The act of peeling, washing and cleaning spuds in preparation for cooking may turn 1kg of raw potatoes into 750g. WRAP calculate this as 25% waste at £0.70/kg. However, unless you keep chickens, it's hard to see what you can do with potato peel and eyes. 

Next, take a rib of beef of 5kg at £8.00/kg. This will shrink during cooking by about 25%. The inedible bone will also make up some 15% of the cooked weight. The joint will therefore yield something like 3.2kg of edible meat; no doubt WRAP would count this as 36% wasted, or £14.40 in waste. Of course you can plop the bone into the stockpot, but at the end of the day you're still going to have to throw it out. 

This distortion of fact is important as WRAP claim their campaign can reduce waste to landfill and make people better-off; both are spurious and dangerous claims. For a start, waste to landfill is a government / EU created problem, not one of available capacity. Secondly, the assumption that not only benefit claimants but pensioners and those on low incomes can offset rising food prices by wasting less is utterly irresponsible. 

Of course there is no need to slavishly follow 'best by' dates, but WRAP's claims and campaign goes far beyond this - they need to justify CE Liz Goodwin's salary of £194,000 and the quango's cost to taxpayers of some £79m a year. Oh, and their food waste campaign can surely have nothing to do with WRAP's commercial sales of £2.2m a year (their sole non-tax income) of home food-waste composting bins, can it?


Ancient mariner said...

So, WRAP them up and chuck 'em all in the bin? I can think of quite a few good uses for that 79 million smackers.

dougal said...

If I recall it is illegal to feed food waste such as peelings to animals if anyone but yourself is going to eat the finished product,and i think swill feeding(which used food waste) is still banned.

Blue Eyes said...

So what if food waste ends up in landfill anyway? It's all non-poisonous biodegradable stuff anyway.

It's quite a different kettle of fish from worrying about old tellies leaking heavy metals into the water table.

Anonymous said...

Many restaurants and takeaways serve excessively large portions with no smaller alternative, so it is hardly surprising that a lot of the food they sell ends up being wasted.

meltemian said...

"Lies, damned lies and statistics"
You can make figures prove anything if you try hard enough.
I'm interested to hear that swill-buckets aren't used any more - my daughter has a council-supplied one. I wonder where it all goes?

Greg Tingey said...

Chickens are still being fed scraps.
And some of us buy almost no vegetables, anyway. Onions and occasionally Shallots is about it for us, because we haven't enough space for the amount of Onion we get through, and I screwed-up the shallot-planting this year. Got a superb Garlic crop though.
Talking of waste, anyone want some surplus green-beans?

No, WRAP are lying idiots, reminiscent of the "energy-saving lightbulb" con-trick.
As someone who really does practice recycling, I can do without prats like these around, they make genuine efforts look silly, which they are not.

Ed P said...

Wrap by name and Crap by nature

Span Ows said...

I can't understand why they concern themselves with food waste - nigh on 100% of it would be 'organic' and biodegraded into the soil...in fairly quick time.

If however they concerned themselves with the ridiculous amount of WRAPping that so much produce has then maybe they should avoid the chop! (that's the chop minus the bone and fat)

James Higham said...

the assumption that not only benefit claimants but pensioners and those on low incomes can offset rising food prices by wasting less is utterly irresponsible

Very much so.

Mike Cunningham said...

As a champion of true 'Diversity' as well as Equality, Fraternity and 'good eating', I am supporting a move to get the BBC Farming programme investigated, as it does not conform to the accepted BBC standards for employment and multicultural broadcasting.

The only regular names of the presenters are Anna Hill and Sarah Swadling. Both obviously white English women!

Where are the men? Never mind the men, where are the legions of Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Afghanis and Indonesian women who must now be tiring of any hope of employment in their dream job, that of an announcer, trudging through mountains of mud, offal and sewage while conducting outside broadcasts from the farms of Britain?

I will be shortly announcing a campaign of civil disobedience against the discriminatory hiring policies of 'Farming today', and will be looking for at least five signatures to get my campaign of to a start.

Shevva said...

I'm always intrested in how someone gets a job paying £200,000 a year what was their job before this one? City banking exec?

Anonymous said...

"I'm always intrested in how someone gets a job paying £200,000 a year what was their job before this one? City banking exec?"

Joining your local 'lodge' would be a good place to start...

Anonymous said...

Q. How can you "justify" £194K - R??

A. Simple! It isn't possible to justify but I can tell you what it is...........

That's an obscenity, Goodwin is a makeweight shill, what the hell does she know about anything of note, or, of value?

What a God-awful waste of precious taxpayers' involuntary largesse, WTF is going on? AND, How do we allow it to go on?

Surely there must be [very soon] 'a reckoning'.


cosmic said...

I take the view that if I buy some item of food, it's up to me whether I waste it or not, and none of the government's damned business. Waste in catering is bound to be carefully calculated.

I really can't see why we are robbed to pay for a load of shysters such as WRAP. I first heard mention of WRAP about the same time as EU landfill regulations came about.

I can see the usual silly arguments being trotted out, "WRAP are doing a great job spreading the message of combating waste.....". I beg to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. The 'looting' goes on.

I got a letter this week to announce the arrival of yet another recycling bin - this time for food waste.

The only thing that is rotten would appear to be the troughers on the taxpayer titty.

Anonymous said...

As pointed out food waste is organic. It rots. If WRAP were any use at all they would advocate some way of directing this waste into composting or some such.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

We used to feed it to pigs at one time - with suitable precautions against sharps, etc.

The pigs loved it, and nobody suffered as a result.

When, exactly, did we all take leave of our senses?

cosmic said...


If I recall correctly, pig swill stopped with the last foot and mouth outbreak, which wasn't handled very well by the MAFF, in fact so badly that MAFF had its name changed to Defra. When I was at school in the 60s there was a bin for food waste, potato peelings etc, which a local farmer paid for as pigswill.

Generally, food waste may rot and be benign, but it's all tonnage going into landfill on which a tax must be paid thanks to the EU.

As I understand it, a high proportion of sorted material is 'recycled' by exporting it to African countries, where it goes into landfill. There are composting schemes, but it's not clear how well they work. I'd say it's what happens when you have a big bureaucratic scheme for doing something and it's measured by whether it can tick the right boxes, not by whether it actually manages to solve the problem it's set up for. So it isn't a question of whether it goes into landfill so much as whether it qualifies for ticking the 'not landfill' box.

Anonymous said...

@Blue Eyes

"So what if food waste ends up in landfill anyway? It's all non-poisonous biodegradable stuff anyway."

Except it generates tonnes of methane which is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide...

Yeah. So what.