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Estimates for household food and drink waste in the UK 2011

November 2011

Research shows that annual UK household food and drink waste has fallen by 1.1 million tonnes (13%) over a three year period from 8.3 million tonnes to an estimated 7.2 million tonnes. This avoided food and drink waste would fill the Wembley Stadium in London to the brim.

Background

WRAP commissioned Resource Futures to determine an updated estimate for local authority collected household food waste, based on the most recent compositional studies and WasteDataFlow data, and to estimate the change since 2006/7. WRAP has used this as a basis for updating the estimate for the overall levels of household food and drink waste in the UK. The approach taken and the new estimates have been peer reviewed, and updated in the light of these comments.

Results

The reduction in annual UK household food and drink waste between 2006/7 and 2010 was around 1.1 million tonnes, or around 13%. The new estimate is 7.2 million tonnes annually, or equivalent to around a fifth of all food and drink purchased.

Avoidable household food and drink waste (i.e. food and drink that could have been eaten) has reduced by 950,000 tonnes, or 18%, from 5.3 to 4.4 million tonnes annually.

As food inflation over this period has been around 20%, although the amount we throw away is much lower (overall 4.4Mt vs 5.3Mt), it is still costing us about the same (ca. £12 billion). Had the reduction in food and drink waste not occurred, consumers would have been spending at least £2.5 billion a year more on food and drink bought and thrown away.

The environmental impact of avoidable household food and drink waste is now around 17 million tonnes of CO2e (equivalent to the emissions of 1 in 5 cars on UK roads) and 4% of the UK total water footprint. The savings associated with the reduction in avoidable food and drink waste amount to around 3.6 million tonnes of CO2e a year, and almost a billion tonnes of water a year.

The reduction is a huge achievement. However, household food and drink waste remains the single largest proportion of UK food and drink waste arisings (almost 50%), and more than 60% of this is avoidable – so there remains much more to do.

How it was achieved

The reduction is due to:

  • Rising food and drink prices and reduced disposable incomes being triggers for many consumers to see how they could save money.
  • The work of WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste initiative, which is supported by Local Authorities and other partners and community groups, gives consumers the practical advice, tools and, importantly, confidence to realise these savings.
  • This activity is also supported by signatories of the Courtauld Commitment voluntary agreement. They are making it easier for consumers in the retail environment to buy the right amounts of food and drink and to get the most from what they buy. For example through optimising pack sizes, clearer date labelling and storage guidance, maximising shelf life and innovative packaging.


November 2013 Update

WRAP published new estimates on how much food and drink is disposed annually from UK households in November 2013.  The breakdown of avoidable food and drink waste has been updated along with the associated value and environmental impact figures. Go to: www.wrap.org.uk/household-food-waste