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05 Mar 2021

Are you hungry? We have some food for thought this Food Waste Action Week.

Hannah Carter
Food Waste in Landfill

Currently 10.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year. In this article we will be looking at the UK’s progress on tackling food waste and how you can get involved in the UK’s first ever Food Waste Action Week.  

Food waste is a global issue that for the first time now has a week dedicated to taking action, Food Waste Action Week. No one likes to waste food, it is morally wrong, costs money, resources and is simply a waste. Is there more that we can be doing to reduce food waste? In this article we will be looking into the governments resource strategy, WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste Food Waste Reduction Roadmap and what consumers can do to reduce food waste at home. 

Enough is Enough: Cutting Down on Food Waste 

In 2018 the Government released their resource strategy “Our waste, our resources: a strategy for England” in which they outlined the goals to move into a circular economy and value our resources. Chapter 5, “Enough is Enough: Cutting Down on Food Waste” outlines how specifically the UK aims to reduce food waste. Currently, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations: “Each year, an estimated one third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion – ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices.”1 One third of all food produced for human consumption being wasted each year is a massive problem, not only globally but in the UK as well. According to Wrap “We throw away 6.6 million tonnes of household food waste a year in the UK, almost three quarters is food we could have eaten.”2  

The amount of food we are wasting on a global and national scale are shocking, considering it is not just the food that is wasted, but also the resources to grow the food and the emissions caused from food waste. According to the government: “If the total global annual emissions from food waste – some 3.3 billion tonnes – were released by a single country, that nation would be the world’s third largest polluter behind China and the United States. In the UK alone, the carbon footprint of food and drink consumed is estimated to be equivalent to one fifth of UK emissions”3 It is hard to believe that we are wasting so much food, but there are goals in place to bring these figures down and act on food waste. The Government’s plan to reduce food waste: 

  • Reduce food waste through a £15 million pilot fund.

  • Consult on annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses.

  • Consult on legal powers to introduce mandatory targets for food waste prevention.

  • Publish a new food surplus and waste hierarchy.

  • Promote awareness of the issue by appointing a new Food Surplus and Waste Champion.

  • Support cross sector collaboration through the Courtauld 2025 agreement.

In an attempt to reduce food waste the government set up a pilot scheme back in 2019, supported by a £15 million fund. The scheme was developed in collaboration with charities and businesses who received grassroots grants from the £500,000 Food Waste Reduction Fund. “Together, the grants – administered by WRAP – will see an extra 2,500 tonnes of quality food redistributed to people in need.”4 This is a great solution to not only solve the issue of food waste, but also helps those in need in society. Redistribution of surplus food is a key area for development seeing as “waste from the hospitality and foodservice sector is rising even more, to 1.1 million tonnes.”5 

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 is by 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses. The UK state that they are “fully committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 target.” And that “Together, these commitments support our broader ambitions to eliminate avoidable waste by 2050 and to work towards eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030.” 

Alongside government strategy to help reduce food waste WRAP has introduced a Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. The roadmap is designed to give businesses directions on reducing waste in their operations. So far the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap has saved 180,000t of food (worth £300m) across 45 companies reporting comparable data from becoming waste by Roadmap members. Another key achievement of the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap is “By mid-September 2020, 171 businesses had provided evidence to WRAP of implementing Target, Measure, Act (around 80% of those committed to the Roadmap). The combined turnover of these businesses is over £200bn, representing 50% of the overall turnover for UK food manufacture, retail and hospitality and food service.”6 This goes to show that reducing food waste not only benefits the environment by reducing emissions and resources to grow food, but also has economic benefits as well.  

Love Food Hate Waste Food Reduction Guide 

Wrap’s brand, Love food hate waste, have released a guide on how to reduce food waste this Food Waste Action Week. They created the action week to raise awareness “of the environmental consequences of wasting food, and promoting activities that will help make wasting food a thing of the past.” They have given advice to consumers on: 

  • How to make a list and plan your proportions. 

  • Check your fridge temperature. 

  • Keep an eye on your date labels. 

  • Eat everything that’s edible. 

  • Use up all your leftovers. 

  • Make the most of your cupboard. 

  • Freeze what you won’t eat. 

According to Love Food Hate Waste, “If we stopped throwing away the 714,000 tonnes of potatoes we waste every year in our homes, it would do the same for the environment as taking 326,000 tonnes of CO2e out of our atmosphere! That’s why during Food Waste Action Week 2021, we’re challenging everyone to understand the true value of food and waste as little as possible. It’s time to act now.”7 

When we waste perfectly good food it has an impact on the environment and contributes to climate change. Love Food Hate Waste states that food waste “feeds climate change.” We not only waste food but we also waste valuable resources such as water, fertilisers, soil and land. As well as the emissions produced from production, to transportation to storage. “If we all stopped wasting bread at home in the UK for a year, it could do the same for greenhouse gas emissions as planting 5.3 million trees. Wasted food accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions globally than all of the commercial flights we take each year.”8 

Let’s all take action to stop food waste this Food Waste Action Week. If you want to find innovative recycling solutions and learn how you can reduce waste, come to RWM Expo happening on the 22nd - 23rd September 2021. It is completely free to attend, with opportunities to network and watch speaking sessions from experts in the field of recycling, resource and waste management. 

Register for free here.