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How bad is the UK food waste problem?

3rd December 213 mins
By Toucan

How bad is the UK food waste problem? 

Are you aware that food waste can cause just as much damage to the planet as plastic waste? Leftovers and food waste can do more to drive climate change than the commonly known environmental issue of plastic. 

Most food waste comes from households, as opposed to restaurants, hotels, and businesses like supermarkets. We throw away approximately 6.6 million tonnes of household food waste a year in the UK, and around three-quarters of that is food that could have been eaten. It is reported that about a third of all of the world’s food goes to waste, which contributes between 8-10% of total greenhouse gas emissions

It is not just food ending up as waste that is becoming an issue, but there is also a substantial amount of surplus food from manufacturing, retail, and hospitality services. Surplus is where the supply of foods exceeds the demand for it, and it can include: overproduction, food imperfections, past best before dates, and damaged packaging. 

Redistributing this surplus food is one of the best ways to reduce the wastage amount, as it ensures that more is available for people to eat. Between 2015 and 2020, approximately 320,000 tonnes of food have been saved from going to waste. Plus, there was an equivalent of 220 million meals redistributed in 2020 alone – that’s a lot of food! 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that followed, reports suggested that domestic food waste had been reduced in the UK. The charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) undertook four UK-wide surveys during the lockdowns to understand how they had affected food habits and behaviours. It found that 79% of respondents undertook food management behaviours including pre-planning food shops, managing food expiry dates, and using up leftovers. 

Initiatives to reduce food waste

In the UK, several initiatives have been set up to tackle the issue of food waste. The first is the UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, which launched in 2018 between WRAP and the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD). It consists of milestones for retailers, food producers, manufacturers, and the hospitality industry to meet to tackle food waste. It is an ongoing initiative, with progress reports published to understand how the roadmap is progressing. 

Love Food Hate Waste aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste at home. It provides easy practical solutions that everyone can do at home, such as recipes and storage tips, so that you waste less food – which benefits both your purse and the environment.

As mentioned previously, redistribution of surplus food is another initiative to reduce the amount of food going to waste. FareShare is the longest-running food redistribution charity in the UK and has been giving back to communities since 1994, ensuring that no food goes to waste. The charity supports community groups and charities by providing almost a million meals a week for vulnerable people. 

There are also various apps available that aim to reduce food waste from restaurants and your home. You can find out more about these apps and how to download them by checking out our dedicated blog (link to F01 blog). 

You can help the UK’s food waste problem by taking steps to reduce the amount of food you waste. Want to know where to start? Here are a few top tips:

  1. Try not to over buy – keep track of what you have bought and used. 

  2. Check use-by dates of fresh food when you buy it to make sure you have plenty of time to use it. 

  3. Love your freezer! If you have leftovers, pop them in the freezer to eat another time. 

  4. Check your fridge temperature – it should be between 0-5C. 

You can also donate to charities that tackle food waste issues through the Toucan app. Download it today and start building your personal portfolio of charities and causes close to your heart.

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