More action needed on UK food waste

Six meals, on average, are thrown away by UK households every week, with an annual cost of £12.5bn to the nation, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has warned this week.

Figures came from WRAP’s new report, looking at UK food waste, which also revealed that, since 2007, a massive food waste saving of 21% has been made. This, WRAP said, has saved consumers a total of £13bn during the period. However, it has also said consumers are still discarding 4.2m tonnes (mt) of edible household food.

The report also showed that the equivalent of 86m chickens were thrown away each year, despite it being the nation’s favoured meat. As a result, the meat is one of the top 10 most discarded foods.  

“Almost half of this food goes straight from our fridges or cupboards to the bin and doesn’t even make it onto our dinner plates,” WRAP revealed.

More work on waste

In a bid to combat the inexcusable wastage of food, the organisation has carried out work to show it is possible to reduce household waste by a further 1.7mt a year by 2025.

As part of the revelation, WRAP’s CEO Dr Liz Goodwin called for a “major” and “combined effort” from retailers, brands, government and consumers to work towards the common goal. “This could result in the UK halving avoidable food waste by 2025, compared to when we started work on this in 2007, thereby saving consumers and local authorities billions of pounds,” she said.

However, she added that consumers and the food industry have performed well on the whole so far, managing to reduce household food and drink waste by 1.3mt to 7mt since 2007, But she said progress had slowed in recent years.

Tackling food waste

“The 21% reduction in avoidable food waste is down to millions of consumers doing things differently in the home, such as buying the right amounts, storing and freezing foods to keep them fresher for longer and making more use of leftovers,” WRAP said.

Dr Goodwin added: “Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food and how it has increased over recent years. Yet as WRAP’s research shows, we are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds.

“The UK is leading the way in tackling food waste and the 21% cut is a terrific achievement by millions of people who have taken action, saved money and helped safeguard our natural resources. However, there is so much more to go for and I believe we should be going for it.”

Government backing

Meanwhile, various government environment bosses have called for consumers and industry to make more progress. “Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste and we want to see businesses helping consumers to waste less food,” said Dan Rogerson, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Resource Management at Defra.

He added: “Cutting waste and driving business innovation will help to build a stronger economy. We will continue to work closely with food retailers and manufacturers to achieve this goal.”

Scotland’s Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead, meanwhile, said the challenge was not only a UK one, but one of global importance. “The Scottish Government has invested £20m to help local authorities roll-out food waste collections to households across the country, resulting in over one million households in Scotland now having a service to collect and recycle their food waste,” he said.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister for Northern Ireland Mark Durkan said the food waste figures were “disgraceful”, taking into account the amount of water and energy it takes to produce food. “This wastage is even more unacceptable when we consider citizens suffering from poverty and at risk of malnutrition in our society and the millions going hungry across the globe,” he said.

“Although progress has been made in reducing food waste we cannot be complacent; we must all act to eradicate this smear on our lifestyles. I see tackling food waste as a key priority for my department.”


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