It’s inevitable, given my role here at WRAP, that my friends and relations are going to ask me for advice on all things ‘recycling and reuse’. I’ll always do my best to oblige, of course, and most of the time I can at least point them in the right direction, even if I don’t know the answer myself.
One of the questions I’ve been asked on more than one occasion relates to food and freezers - when can food be safely frozen, and is it really necessary to ‘freeze on day of purchase’?
WRAP’s done a fair amount of research into the ‘freezer question’ and our conclusion is that consumers could save money (and stop good food going to waste) by using their freezers more effectively.
We’ve discovered that most freezers are only three-quarters full and that 60% of people believe that food has to be frozen on the day it’s bought – a view that’s reinforced by some of the labelling on our food packaging. Given that UK households waste around 7.2m tonnes of food and drink every year, encouraging people to make better use of their freezers makes very good environmental, as well as financial sense.
We worked with the Food Standards Agency (FAS) to develop some new guidance for industry to revise existing freezing advice, and it’s great to hear of initiatives such as the one launched by Sainsbury's last week, which takes advantage of the new guidance. The grocery chain is rolling out new labelling across all its stores which advises customers that it’s fine to freeze food at any time up to the product’s ‘use by date’.
There really is no reason why food can’t be safely frozen at any point before the ‘use by date’ and this gives us all so much more flexibility about the way in which we buy, store and use food. If you are looking for more information about how to get the best from your freezer, Love Food Hate Waste has same great tips here. You too could be a freezer hero!
Sainsbury’s isn’t the only supermarket to embrace these kinds of initiatives. M&S is also using the new freezer labelling guidance and to date, retailers and brands have spent at least £10m helping their customers reduce their food waste. There’s the Morrison’s ‘Great taste less waste’ and ‘Love your leftovers’, again from Sainsbury’s, and the Co-op has been displaying ‘Food lover’ messages on all its till screens.
Smarter packaging is playing an important role, too. Tesco is the latest supermarket to trial new packaging that will keep fruit and vegetables fresher, and will be the first retailer to see how good the packaging is at preserving the freshness of tomatoes and avocados. Tesco estimates the new packaging could lead to a potential saving of 1.6m packs of tomatoes and 350,000 packs of avocados every year.
Last month, Marks & Spencer launched the packaging for all its strawberries and after trials in its stores showed a minimum wastage saving of 4%. In the peak strawberry season that’s the equivalent of 40,000 packs, or about 800,000 strawberries. M&S says it is committed to reducing waste as part of its programme to be the world's most sustainable retailer, and hopes to extend the packaging to all berries.
It’s exciting to learn of such developments which serve to demonstrate just how seriously the signatories to the WRAP-brokered Courtauld Commitment take the challenges of reducing food waste.