New platform to target food waste supported by major UK brands

New platform to target food waste supported by major UK brands

A new platform designed to reduce food waste is being trialled before being launched with the backing of major UK brands. Caboodle is a not-for-profit digital platform that enables supermarkets, cafés and restaurants to connect with community groups and volunteers to redistribute surplus food.

In the UK today, around £4 billion of food equating to 1.1 million tonnes goes to waste across the food retail and hospitality sector every year.

While overall surplus food redistribution has trebled between 2015 and 20201, there are still 200,000 tonnes that could have been redistributed.

In response, Co-Op and Microsoft have partnered, supported by technology consultancy BJSS and Team ITG, to create Caboodle and tackle the issue. The platform directly links those with surplus food to organisations who can redistribute it where it is needed.

For supermarkets, cafes and restaurants, Caboodle allows them to share their surplus food online daily, using live notifications to alert charities when more slots are available.  Meanwhile, for community groups they’ll save time by having the opportunity to book and schedule slots, receive live notifications and gain access to volunteers easily via a digital noticeboard.

Shirine Khoury-Haq, Interim CEO of the Co-Op said: “The amount of good quality surplus food that’s not currently being redistributed is astounding.

“We’re currently trialling caboodle in over 100 food stores and the results we’re seeing so far are incredible. We’ll be rolling it out across our entire estate next month and hope that all other retailers and businesses within hospitality will see the benefit too.

“The more organisations use Caboodle the simpler and more effective it will be for volunteers and community groups to gain access to good food.”

The platform, which is currently being trialled in Co-Op’s food stores in Northern Ireland, Milton Keynes and London goes live next month across a further 2,500 food stores.  It’s open to charities and community groups of all kinds, from food banks and family support networks to youth groups, schools and more.

Richard Smith, deputy head of food supply at the Felix Project commented: “As a charity which has tested Caboodle and is already seeing the benefits, we know it will make a real difference to others like ourselves.

“The process for us is just easier and unlike other systems it works in a way that allows us to notify stores if we can’t make our collection slots – offering the slot to another group nearby saving food from going to waste at a time when so many are in need of it.”

Caboodle will also highlight volunteering opportunities through its online noticeboard. People who want to volunteer to help redistribute food can enter their postcode to find a local group they’d like to work with to make a difference.

Clare Barclay, CEO of Microsoft UK, commented: “One of the best things about Caboodle is not just the impact it will have, but also that it came from a chance conversation between a Microsoft employee and a Co-Op store manager about how to stop good food going to waste.”

Trussell Trust food bank parcels surpasses two million in past year

Trussell Trust food bank parcels surpasses two million in past year

Food banks in the Trussell Trust network have provided over 2.1 million parcels between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022. The charity has released new figures, revealing a 14% increase in food parcels compared to the same period in 2019/20 – before the pandemic.

It is the first time food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network have provided more than two million parcels, outside of 2020/21, at the height of the pandemic.

Out of the 2.1million plus parcels, more than 830,000 were provided for children, representing a 15% increase from 2019/20 when 720,000 were provided.

The Trust experienced their busiest winter outside of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, providing 1.2 million parcels in the second half of the year alone (from October to the end of March). That is more parcels than were provided for the whole year of 2016/17, just five years ago.

The charity says it’s witnessing an accelerating crisis across the UK –  as more and more people are unable to afford the absolute essentials needed to eat, stay warm, dry and clean.

Food bank managers are also now warning of an accelerating crisis across the UK following the cut to Universal Credit uplift and the rising cost of living.

One food bank manager said: “The people who come in are telling me they’re scared. People are beside themselves about what the next six months will bring.”

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children. That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.

“How can this be right in a society like ours? And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship. No one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.

“There is still time for the UK government to do the right thing. We are calling on the UK government to bring benefits in line with the true cost of living. As an urgent first step benefits should be increased by at least 7%, keeping pace with increases in the cost of living. In the longer term, we need the government to introduce a commitment in the benefits system to ensure that everyone has enough money in their pockets to be prevented from falling into destitution.

“By failing to make benefits payments realistic for the times we face, the government now risks turning the cost of living crisis into a national emergency.”

As well as the Trussell Trust network of food banks, the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) has identified at least 1,172 independent food banks while there are also Salvation Army food banks as well as food banks run from schools and some universities and hospitals. There are also thousands of other food aid providers including soup kitchens and social supermarkets.

Investigation into UK household plastic waste begins

Investigation into UK household plastic waste begins

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are launching The Big Plastic Count today, 16th May 2022, looking into household plastic waste. The initiative wants to gather data to see how much plastic is passing through our homes and what happens to it.

The environmental organisations say, whilst the public are doing their bit to recycle, plastic waste is still everywhere and they want greater insight into how much plastic waste is being thrown away and where it is ending up after it leaves homes.

They say there’s “simply too much of it and recycling alone isn’t going to solve the plastic problem.”

To gain insight into the scale of the issue, Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic are asking the nation to count their plastic waste for one week in May, from 16th May to 22nd May. They want to know how much household plastic is thrown away and how much is really recycled.

Over 177,000 households have signed up to take part. They will be sent a free pack with everything needed to complete the count, including how to sort and categorise waste.

Participants will be able to submit their results online once the Big Plastic Count Week concludes on 22nd May. The results will then provide households with a personal plastic footprint and reveal what happens to plastic when it leaves homes.

The results from the nationwide investigation will be published in June 2022 and the organisations say they will use the data to demand change from government at a policy level, as well as convincing big brands and supermarkets to take ambitious action on plastic packaging.

Everyday Plastic states the timing of this evidence-gathering investigation is crucial as this year the government is starting to decide on legal targets to reduce plastic waste. The community interest company wants the government to set a target to reduce single-use plastic by 50% by 2025 (to be achieved by transitioning to reusable packaging) and ban sending the UK’s waste to other countries.

Homelessness resulting from no-fault evictions soars by over a third

Homelessness resulting from no-fault evictions soars by over a third

Between October and December last year 5,260 households were threatened with homelessness in England as a result of a no-fault eviction, new government figures reveal. A 37% rise compared to the same period before the pandemic.

A Section 21 no-fault eviction allows landlords to evict a tenant with just two months’ notice, without having to give any reason.

In April 2019, the government announced that “private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason.” Since then, Shelter points out: the government has recommitted to scrapping Section 21 no-fault evictions in the last two Queen’s Speeches.

The housing justice charity wants the government to put their words into action by committing to a Renters’ Reform Bill in the Queen’s Speech next month. Shelter argues that bringing in this clause is now more urgent than ever as the cost-of-living crisis means many renters will be unable to cover the unexpected costs of having to find a new home, including putting down a deposit or paying rent in advance.

To be classified as ‘threatened with homelessness’ by the council, a household is at risk of losing their home in the next eight weeks.

Data from the government on homelessness also reveals a quarter of households were found to be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because of the loss of a private tenancy (14,820 households). This has increased by 85% in a year after the end of the eviction ban during the pandemic but is 14% higher than before the pandemic. The loss of a private tenancy is the second leading trigger of homelessness in England.

Further data reveals: the number of people fleeing domestic abuse (8,200 households) who have become homeless or threatened with homelessness is 28% higher than before the pandemic. A total of 33,800 households became homeless in England last winter. This includes 8,410 families with children – a rise of 18% in a year and puts family homelessness back at pre-pandemic levels.

According to Shelter’s own research with YouGov, in the last three years, nearly 230,000 private renters have been served with a formal no-fault eviction notice. This equates to one renter every seven minutes.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Homelessness due to no-fault evictions is up 37% on pre-pandemic levels. These are real people who’ve been chewed up and spat out by our broken private renting system, and now face an uphill battle to find somewhere to call home again.

“Our emergency helpline is inundated with calls from people whose lives have been thrown into chaos by unexpected and unfair evictions. If landlords follow the process, as it stands they can turf people out of their homes for no reason – and tenants are powerless to do anything about it.

“No fault evictions are blunt, brutal and indiscriminate. England’s 11 million private renters have waited long enough for a fairer system – it’s time the government brought forward a Renters’ Reform Bill and put Section 21 on the scrapheap where it belongs.”

Long-term empty homes in East Suffolk targeted with new initiative

Long-term empty homes in East Suffolk targeted with new initiative

A three-year long-term empty homes programme has had revenue funding approved by councillors at a cabinet meeting of East Suffolk Council.

The initiative is being designed to bring residential properties that have been empty for at least two years back into use. In East Suffolk, currently 280 properties in private ownership fall into that category.

These will be prioritised for action according to type, location, duration unoccupied, and housing need in the surrounding area.

The new programme forms part of the council’s initiatives for tackling the long-term empty homes issue in the area. There has also been a proposal to appoint a dedicated Empty Homes Officer to drive policy.

The programme will be designed to bring homes back into use via a variety of options.

Councillor Richard Kerry, East Suffolk Council cabinet member with responsibility for housing, said: “Empty homes are a wasted resource and can cause blight on neighbourhoods, attracting anti-social behaviour, vandalism and fly-tipping.

“We recognise the value of bringing an empty home back into the housing stock. The result can be a modernised, more energy efficient home, utilising fewer resources than a new build.

“We also realise that solutions need to be tailored to each case and owner, often requiring time to explore all options.

“As a local authority, we can play a key role in opening up the opportunity for investment and restoration where it may have stalled.

“Costs of all actions and their impact on overall long-term empty homes will be kept under review, and the programme revised and tailored to maximise effectiveness.”

Examples of empty homes becoming part of the Council’s own stock, to provide affordable accommodation and much needed regeneration, include 560 London Road, Lowestoft, converted into a House in Multiple Occupation, and 98 Park Road, Lowestoft, now occupied as a five-bed council house.

Funding to support the development of a long-term empty homes programme is available from reserves created from the New Homes Bonus (NHB) claimed by East Suffolk Council from central government in recent years.

The revenue cost of the service is estimated at £281,958 for three years.

Property purchases would initially use the reserve as a source of funding, with capital receipts providing a replenishment when properties are sold.

There are approximately 117,000 homes in East Suffolk. The number of long-term empty homes represents less than 0.25%. Despite the low percentage, a survey carried out on behalf of the charity Empty Homes, in October 2016, found that 76% of adults surveyed believed their local authority should place a higher priority on tackling empty homes.