Food waste hits the headlines

Dr Liz Goodwin, CEO, WRAP

I was not surprised (and in fact, reassured) to see so much thoughtful coverage today of the critically-important issue of global food waste – a top priority for WRAP.

I hope that #foodwaste is trending on Twitter because this is something that really matters, not only to us here in the UK, but globally. Wasting food means we’re wasting money, resources, water and energy, and all at a time when so many millions across the world are starving.

We welcome today’s report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers as it makes a useful contribution to the debate about food waste, an arena where WRAP has been active for some considerable time.

We’ve carried out a considerable amount of research into this area already, and through Love Food Hate Waste  and other initiatives, we’ve helped households across the UK reduce food waste from 8.3m tonnes a year to 7.2m tonnes.

Of this, 4.4 million tonnes is avoidable food waste. This avoidable food waste has a value of £12 billion per year, and is costing the average family £480 every year. Given the current economic climate, getting more from the food we buy and making the household budget go further are even more important to us all.

Our research shows that there is a range of reasons why we waste food. We often cook, prepare and serve too much, or allow food to go off. Lack of planning, misunderstanding date labels, getting portion sizes wrong and lack of knowledge of how to store food to keep it fresher for longer, and how to use leftovers all contribute to food waste. If any of this is ringing bells with you, please visit and check out the great advice available there.

The good news is that since 2006/7, millions of people are throwing away less food and saving money for their households. But, as the IMechE report reminds us, there’s still much to do – we’re still wasting more than 7m tonnes a year - and people could be saving money today by taking steps to make the best use of the food they buy.

WRAP is working closely with food and drink retailers and brands to reduce waste in the supply chain through the Courtauld Commitment, and in October last year, we announced news of significant progress – signatories had already achieved an 8.8% reduction in the amount of food and packaging waste against a target of 5%.

At the same time, we’re also working with the hospitality sector to help it reduce food waste, through the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement

More than 100 organisation have already signed up to this agreement, which aims to cut food and associated packaging waste by 5% and increase the overall rate of food and packaging waste that is being recycled, sent to anaerobic digestion or composted, to 70% by 2015.

These initiatives are all evidence of the collective desire that’s out there to tackle this issue. Awareness is one thing: but actually making change happen is another, and that’s where I believe we at WRAP can help make a difference.


Good to hear how you and your family are getting the most from the food you buy.

You raise an interesting question about the value of the clothes we throw away. We know that currently, each year we’re throwing away 1.13m tonnes of clothing that’s reached the end of its life. 54,000 tonnes are re-used, 160,000 tonnes are recycled and 80,000 tonnes are incinerated. A further 350,000 tonnes is sent to landfill – we estimate this could be worth £140m to charities and re-use organisations. If you’re interested in finding out more, check our Valuing our clothing report

In contrast food waste figures are much higher - households throw away 7.2million tonnes of wasted food and drink which equates to £12 billion.

Liz Goodwin(not verified) 21st February 2013

As I am older, I waste very little, as does my family. During the last year, we have thrown away one tub of cream cheese, half a lettuce and an apple. This is not unusual. I, as a parent, have not allowed my two daughters to waste food: don't take what you don't want to eat. I don't permit faddiness either.

The other thing: why do we waste so much clothing? Shops are heaving with garments for sale. What happens at the end of their fashion cycle? I assume it is wasted. This also involves wastage of either natural or man-made materials, along with the related waste of water, the abuse of the earth in which it is grown and oil.

I would bet that more money is wasted on dumped clothing than on wasted food.

David L(not verified) 21st January 2013

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

More information about formatting options

Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.