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Food flagship initiative

London is one of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s three Strategic Partner Cities, working to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, which includes creating a more circular urban food system.

Creating a more circular urban food system

The way our food is produced has a damaging impact on soils, biodiversity, water quality and is contributing to the climate crisis. Food accounts for almost 10% of London’s consumption-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in large part because of the kinds of food we eat, how that food is produced, and the amount of it that is wasted. Only a small proportion of food surplus and food waste is redistributed, reprocessed or recycled, with precious nutrients being lost instead of being cycled back into fields to grow more food.

The Covid-19 health crisis has highlighted the fragility of our food system and its vulnerability to shocks and disruptions. With an increasing number of Londoners experiencing food insecurity and diet-related ill health, it has exposed on-going socio-economic and health challenges.

With London’s population projected to reach 10.8 million by 2041, it is vital to change the way food is produced and consumed in the city.

“We need collaborative approaches to solve complex food system challenges such as food waste and the climate emergency. By joining this bold initiative, you can take action to accelerate London’s transition to a circular economy for food.”

Dr Liz Goodwin OBE

Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss and Waste at World Resources Institute, and Chair of London Waste and Recycling Board

The food flagship initiative is a major three-year venture to demonstrate how a circular economy for food can be achieved in London. Building on work already being undertaken by the Mayor of London, London’s boroughs and ReLondon, the initiative will design and deliver interventions and evidence-based policies to reduce consumption-based emissions from food and bring together a consortium of public and private stakeholders to implement pioneering circular food system solutions. The aim is to lead a transformational shift towards a healthy and sustainable food system, underpinned by circular economy principles, where:

  • Food is grown using agro-ecological practices, and available locally where possible.
  • Healthy and sustainable food products are prevalent.
  • Food waste is eliminated wherever possible, and unavoidable food waste is recycled back into productive use.

Transitioning to a circular economy for food in London will not only help to tackle the climate crisis, but also represents an opportunity to restore biodiversity, regenerate soil, reduce water use and pollution, and improve human health. It could also bring a myriad of other economic and social benefits, including community wellbeing, social cohesion, supply chain resilience, skills development and new jobs.

To realise a circular economy for food – and the economic, environmental and health benefits associated with it – unprecedented and pioneering action is needed across the food system.

We’re bringing together a consortium of public and private stakeholders across London’s food value chain – from peri-urban farmers’ associations and innovators, to food brands, retailers, hospitality and public sector institutions – who are committed to three pillars of action, identified as the principle building blocks of a circular economy for food in London:

Pillar 1
Increase the sourcing and production of food grown using agro-ecological practices, and food grown locally where possible.

Pillar 2
Increase the prevalence of healthy and sustainable food items and menus.

Pillar 3
Eliminate avoidable food waste wherever possible and recycle unavoidable food waste back into productive uses.

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