ANALYSIS - A recent report published by the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) looked at UK food waste, its volume, origin and environmental impact. A staggering 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable food waste are being thrown away each year, equating to six meals per week for the average UK household, writes Gemma Hyland.
Wasting food and drink hits our pockets – spending money on food that ends up being thrown away – and is a financial drain on local authorities who have to pay for food waste collection and treatment.
It has a detrimental impact on the environment, wasting the materials, water and energy used in its production
Food waste is an important feedstock for the UK’s commercial Anaerobic Digestion Industry but before we recover its energy content and recycle its nutrient content back to the land, we should look to reduce the amount of food waste generated.
Although food waste has fallen by an impressive 21 per cent since the start of WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign in 2007, there is still a long way to go. Governments, international agencies, businesses, local authorities and community groups have all worked with consumers to not only reduce waste, but also to change the throw-away culture surrounding food and packaging.
The data, based on Government funded research, came from measurement of weight and types of food and drink waste from 1800 households, a week long food diary kept by 950 households and creation of waste data from 80 local authorities.
Increased efforts in the areas of recycling and clearer package labelling have made a big contribution to the education of consumers in terms of what they can recycle and how they dispose of food waste. Whilst factors such as increased food prices, portion control and food and drink packaging have all contributed to the reduction in waste, further effort is required.
The report stated that £5.6 billion worth of avoidable waste generated was food and drink thrown away because it was past its use-by date (almost half of all avoidable waste). A further £4.1 billion worth (31 per cent) was thrown out after being cooked, prepared or too much served.
In environmental terms, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from food and drink waste is around 17 million tonnes of CO2. If all avoidable food waste was prevented in 2012, it would be the equivalent of taking a quarter of cars off the road.
In land terms, it has been estimated that an area almost the same size as Wales would be required to grow the food and drink that is thrown away by UK households.
Data on this subject from DEFRA’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey suggests that the amount of food bought by households has decreased, therefore reducing the amount of waste, although further research and analysis on food waste is expected in Spring 2014.
Top 10 Foods thrown away in UK Households
1. Standard bread
2. Fresh potatoes
4. Meals (home-made and pre-prepared)
5. Carbonated soft drinks
6. Fruit juice and smoothies
7. Poultry meat
8. Pork meat
10. Processed potatoes (e.g. chips)
You can view the full WRAP report by clicking here.