Resource Use

Size of Scotland’s food waste challenge revealed in new research

New research released by Zero Waste Scotland has revealed that an estimated 1.35 million tonnes of food and drink was wasted in Scotland in 2013, which will act as a baseline figure as the country endeavours to meet a Scottish Government target to reduce food waste by a third by 2025.

Overall, food and drink production represents 20 per cent of Scotland’s carbon footprint, when all emissions – not only those that occur in Scotland – are taken into account, underlining why the Scottish Government has made food waste reduction a priority.

Size of Scotland’s food waste challenge revealed in new research

The new report by Zero Waste Scotland, ‘How much food and drink waste is there in Scotland?’, released during the European Week for Waste Reduction (19-27 November), for the first time gives an estimated breakdown of food waste in all sectors of the economy through quantifying household food waste and building on existing work. The breakdown of food waste by sector is:

  • Household:                  600,000 tonnes (44 per cent)
  • Manufacturing:            510,000 tonnes (38 per cent)
  • Hospitality                   54,000 tonnes (4 per cent)
  • Retail:                          31,000 tonnes (2 per cent)
  • Education:                   22,000 tonnes (2 per cent)
  • Health and social care:   22,000 tonnes (2 per cent)
  • Wholesale:                  11,000 tonnes (1 per cent)
  • Other:                          95,000 tonnes (7 per cent)

Food waste occurring in primary production is not included in these baseline figures, which Zero Waste Scotland says is due to a lack of reliable data.

In addition to the release of the 2013 baseline figures, Zero Waste Scotland has updated its existing work on reducing household food waste, showing that between 2009 and 2014, Scottish households reduced food waste by 5.7 per cent, saving household budgets £92 million.

Making food waste “socially unacceptable”

Speaking about the new figures, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “The amount of food wasted in Scotland is staggering, which is why the Scottish Government has set a target to reduce food waste by 33 per cent by 2025, one of the most ambitious targets of its kind. This research from Zero Waste Scotland, together with the work that we are doing to measure food that doesn’t make it off the farm, will set the baseline against which we will measure our target. We will now collaborate with organisations from all sections of the supply chain to develop options for policy interventions to meet our target.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, added: “When we talk about the true scale of food waste in Scotland we need to look at the whole supply chain. Whilst household food waste remains the biggest sector, the fact that over half comes from business and public sector shows that we need clear leadership in these areas to make the transformative change we all want to see. Our research shows for the first time the true scale of the challenge we face to achieve Scotland’s ambitious food waste reduction target – but it’s one we are determined to take on together. Tackling the scale of wasted food in our society is an economic, environmental and moral imperative.

“We have made a good start. Since putting the issue of food waste on the map we have worked to reduce household food waste, resulting in a six per cent decrease. We’re also providing small and medium-sized businesses with dedicated advice and support to reduce their food waste and related costs.

“We look forward to working further with the Scottish Government and partners to develop additional priorities for action that will continue to influence behaviour, so that wasting food, at any level, is socially unacceptable.”

European Week for Waste Reduction

The publication of Zero Waste Scotland’s figures on food waste in Scotland coincides with the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR), a Europe-wide initiative to raise awareness and promote action on sustainable resource use and waste management, running from 19 November to 27 November.

Groups from across society such as citizens, education establishments, local authorities, NGOs, businesses and social enterprises have been encouraged to take part in this week by promoting sustainable behaviour, such as by organising a waste-free lunch at work, school or in a community group.

Zero Waste Scotland promotes the initiative in Scotland, and participants are urged to register their actions during the week in order to be eligible for the EWWR Awards 2016, the winners of which will be announced in Barcelona next year.

Ylva Haglund, EWWR Campaign Manager at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Our mission is to raise awareness during the European Week for Waste Reduction, and, with the support of regional ambassadors, work with communities the length and breadth of Scotland to put and end to unnecessary food waste.”

More information about EWWR in Scotland is available on Zero Waste Scotland’s website.


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