Total food waste in the UK has fallen by the equivalent of 7% per person over the past three years, but individual households should still be doing more to reduce the 4.5m tonnes of food waste, the government’s waste advisory body has warned.
The volume of food waste generated in the retail supply chain, the hospitality sector, and in homes stood at 9.5m tonnes in 2018, down from 10m tonnes in 2015 and 11.2m in 2007, according to a detailed study from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
But the 38-page report reveals that UK households still waste 4.5m tonnes of food a year that could have been eaten, worth £14bn. This amounts to £700 for an average family with children. Despite this progress – household food waste has fallen by 6%, from 7.1m tonnes to 6.6m tonnes over three years – the volume of food still wasted equates to 10bn edible meals, it points out. Household food waste represents 70% of all food waste triggered after the food has been grown or produced, with potatoes the single most wasted food.
Marcus Gover, chief executive of WRAP, said: “We are in a new decade and have just 10 years if we are to honour our international commitment to halve food waste. This really matters because it is untenable that we carry on wasting food on such a monumental scale when we are seeing the visible effects of climate change every day, and when nearly a billion people go hungry every day.
“This means we are starting to wake up to the reality of food waste, but we are too often turning a blind eye to what is happening in our homes. We are all thinking about what we can do for the environment and this is one of the most simple and powerful ways we can play our part. By wasting less food, we are helping to tackle the biggest challenges this century – feeding the world while protecting our planet.”
A reduction of 4% in the supply chain suggests progress from businesses, but WRAP says they must step up their action on food waste to help meet the UN target of halving global food waste by 2030. In the retail sector, waste rose by 6% compared with three years earlier, and in the restaurant sector it was up by 7%.
Trewin Restorick, chief executive of environmental charity Hubbub, said: “If food waste was a country, it would be the world’s third biggest contributor to climate change. To hit our climate targets, improvement needs to be a launchpad for transformational change. This can only be achieved by increasing the culinary skills of households, building greater awareness of the environmental impact of food waste, and creating a consistent nationwide food recycling system.”
Clare Oxborrow, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The government needs to set legally binding food waste reduction targets, and have food businesses report publicly on progress. The solutions are there – they just need to bring them into action.”
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