Study reveals the UK wastes £9.7 billion of food each year
According to the research collated in February 2019, 65 per cent of UK adults admit to buying too much food that ends up being thrown away, with London and Newcastle reporting the highest rates of food waste.
The average UK household spends £14.92 a week on ‘topping up’ fresh food that may not be necessary and results in excess being thrown away. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that in the UK we waste seven million tonnes of food every – five million of which is perfectly edible. This is not only costing huge amounts of money but is a big contributing factor in climate change – food waste causes eight per cent of greenhouse gases worldwide.
Although the statistics show that millenials are more likely to throw away food than the previous generation, with 80 per cent of adults aged 18 to 34 admitting to discarding uneaten food each week in contrast to 47 per cent of over 55s, the ‘Instagram demographic’ are leading the way when it comes to planning out their weekly menu and cooking in bulk to last across the week. 29 per cent of millennials say they think out almost all of their main meals for the next week ahead of shopping, compared to just 16 per cent of those aged over 55.
Whilst it’s great that meal prepping is reducing waste from overbuying, research from Too Good To Go, an app that provides customers with surplus restaurant food, has revealed that 34 per cent of prepped meals are still binned. There is widespread confusion over safe food storage and about terms such as ‘sell by dates’ and ‘best before dates,’ resulting in edible food being discarded.
WRAP’s campaign Spoiled Rotten, part of its larger Love Food Hate Waste campaign, aims to provide the public with relevant information on food storage – for example optimal fridge temperatures – to reduce the waste of prepped meals as well as advice on how to avoid overbuying in the first place.
Alongside Too Good To Go, other food sharing apps are tackling the food waste crisis. OLIO, launched in 2016, allows users to upload photos of their unwanted items (both food and non-food) so that other local users can come and collect them for free. Many of these items are past their sell by date but will still be safe to consume.
OLIO’s founders envisaged the app as not only saving users money and reducing waste, but also allowing them to connect with their local communities.
Even with more conscious food purchases and preparation, it is inevitable that some waste will be unavoidable but progress is being made towards the government’s targets in eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030. The government has outlined plans to introduce separate food waste collections to every household in England by 2023 so that food waste can be effectively managed and composted, rather than going to landfill.