Food waste is a very serious concern globally, with far reaching environment, economic and social effects.
In the UK, WRAP estimated that around 22% of all food is wasted post-farm-gate. In 2019, this had a value of over £19 billion a year, associated with over 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The majority (70%) of this is household waste, not hospitality and food service (12%) as often expected. Reducing this waste could save UK households around £700 a year, and provide those without access to regular meals an extra 10bn edible meals each year. To put global food waste into perspective, if it were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US.
Thankfully, food waste in the UK has reduced since 2007, when large-scale interventions were put in place to raise awareness of food waste and reduce waste across supply chains and in households. Between 2007 and 2018, edible food waste in the UK fell by 21%, although globally the figure is still almost incomprehensibly high, at 1.3bn tonnes globally per year. This is a third of all food produced for human consumption, and enough to feed all the 815 million hungry people in the world four times over.
Every day in UK homes we throw away: 4.4m potatoes, 0.9m bananas, 1.2m tomatoes, 0.7m oranges, 20m slices of bread, 5.2m glasses of milk and 2.2m slices of ham. The majority of this is cause by over-purchasing and over filling plates, and storing items wrong. Despite the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables thrown away, access to these products is still an issue for many. According to charity Food Foundation, as of 2018, 3.7 million children in the UK alone were living in homes unable to afford to eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables each week.
It is important to remember that not everyone has access to the same privileges that could reduce household waste. While poverty leads to an increased need to save as much food as possible, many people living in deprivation may lack the time needed to manage and prepare meals effectively due to juggling multiple jobs and long working hours. Shopping may also be done in bulk, increasing the risk of food spoiling before it is eaten. This is something that’s key to remember when implementing strategies to reduce food waste at home.
However, there are many things we could all be doing to reduce the amount of our food that ends up in landfill. As the majority of food waste in the UK comes from households, it is up to all of us to reduce the amount we personally throw out. Below are some great tips to reduce the amount of waste you produce.
10 ways to help you reduce your food waste
There are a myriad of ways to use your food so that as little as possible gets wasted. Here in Europe most of us are incredibly lucky to have almost unlimited access to fruit and vegetables everyday, which unfortunately leads to a wasteful attitude, and the 30% food waste figure we see globally. However, much of this is avoidable which just a little rethinking of our shopping and cooking habits. See what you can do this week with your leftovers and ‘waste’ products – you’ll be surprised how far they go!