The average UK household throws away the equivalent of six meals every week*, costing us as a nation £12.5 billion a year, or almost £60 a month to the average family**, despite a significant drive to reduce food waste a new report reveals.
The ground-breaking report into UK food waste by WRAP, also reveals that since 2007 we have cut avoidable household food waste by an impressive 21%, which saved cash strapped consumers almost £13 billion***. Yet we still throw away a staggering 4.2 million tonnes (Mt) of household food, which could have been eaten. Almost half of this food goes straight from our fridges or cupboards to the bin and doesn’t even make it onto our dinner plates.
WRAP has also carried out work which shows it could be possible to reduce avoidable household food waste by a further 1.7 million tonnes a year by 2025. Given the financial and environmental benefits of such a reduction to the UK, WRAP’s CEO, Dr Liz Goodwin will today call for a "major combined effort" with retailers, brands, governments and consumers to work together towards a common goal. This could result in the UK halving avoidable food waste by 2025 compared to when we started work on this in 2007, thereby saving consumers and Local Authorities billions of pounds.
The top three foods that Britons are throwing away uneaten include every day essentials: bread, potatoes and milk. The equivalent of a staggering 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes and 5.9 million glasses of milk are wasted daily****. Chicken also made the top ten with the equivalent of 86 million chickens thrown away each year, despite being the nation’s favourite meat. Sweet treats like cake make the list too.
Buying more than we need, lack of clarity around storage and labelling and over-estimating portions are just some of the reasons for the waste, reveals WRAP’s pioneering report into the actual waste we generate - Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK 2012 - published today.
The report updates WRAP's 2007 ground-breaking report The Food We Waste which exposed the full scale of the food waste problem for the first time. Detailing what foods are wasted most, how much food is wasted in UK homes, why and how we waste it and how much that waste costs.
But it's not all doom and gloom; the UK has made great progress. The total amount of household food and drink waste has reduced by 1.3Mt to 7Mt since 2007 and avoidable food and drink waste has reduced by 1.1Mt from 5.3Mt to 4.2Mt. However, the rate of reduction has slowed in recent years. The 21% reduction in avoidable food waste is down to millions of consumers doing things differently in the home such as buying the right amounts, storing and freezing foods to keep them fresher for longer and making more use of leftovers.
This has been supported by a number of factors including local authority initiatives and changes to packaging, including clearer date labels by retailers and brands. Consumers are also more aware of how to store and use their food more effectively with advice from Love Food Hate Waste which provides simple yet effective advice, tips and recipes, celebrity chefs, and other consumer campaigns. The increase in food prices has also had an impact.
By reducing avoidable food waste by over a fifth, UK householders have saved billions every year with £3.3 billion in 2012 alone, wasting less of their fruit, and home-made and pre-prepared meals than they were before for example. Many of the households WRAP interviewed earlier this year also stated they were making better use of their leftovers than they used to.
Dr Liz Goodwin, WRAP Chief Executive Officer, said: "Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food and how it has increased over recent years. Yet as WRAP’s research shows, we are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds.
"The UK is leading the way in tackling food waste and the 21% cut is a terrific achievement by millions of people who have taken action, saved money and helped safeguard our natural resources. However, there is so much more to go for and I believe we should be going for it.
"Research by WRAP shows that if we all make a major combined effort to act now, we can save up to £45 billion*****, by 2025. It won't be easy but what a prize if we achieve it. I commit that food waste will remain a top priority for WRAP and we will be pleased to work with those who share my aspiration."
Dan Rogerson MP Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Resource Management at Defra said: “Cutting avoidable household food waste by 21 percent is great news but there is still more to do. Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste and we want to see businesses helping consumers to waste less food.
"Cutting waste and driving business innovation will help to build a stronger economy. We will continue to work closely with food retailers and manufacturers to achieve this goal."
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "Food waste is a global challenge which all of us - Government, individuals and businesses have a responsibility to address. As well as our work with retailers and major brands, last year’s Scotland-wide food waste prevention campaign combined awareness raising with practical tips on how to reduce waste at home. The Scottish Government has invested £20 million to help local authorities roll-out food waste collections to households across the country, resulting in over one million households in Scotland now having a service to collect and recycle their food waste."
Wales' Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, said: "Tackling avoidable food waste is key to Wales moving towards zero waste, so I welcome the findings of this report. Welsh households have made good progress in reducing the amount of food we waste, but there is still more to be done. As food costs rise, we can all take steps to save money and make the most of the food we have bought."
Northern Ireland Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan said: "In the 21st century it is disgraceful that we are wasting so much food, as well as the related energy and water resources associated with food production. This wastage is even more unacceptable when we consider citizens suffering from poverty and at risk of malnutrition in our society and the millions going hungry across the globe.
"Although progress has been made in reducing food waste we cannot be complacent; we must all act to eradicate this smear on our lifestyles. I see tackling food waste as a key priority for my Department. The recently published Waste Management Strategy will provide a range of measures to reduce food waste, from the proposed introduction of food waste restrictions for landfill through to actions within the Waste Prevention Programme.
"The encouraging message is that we can all play our part right now - by making food waste socially unacceptable and by starting to take steps to reduce food waste through simple actions such as using a shopping list to buy only what you need, better planning of meals, correct storage of food and preparing and cooking the right portion sizes."
* Assumes 500g per meal.
** The £12.5 billion refers to the whole population; the £60 per month is for families with children.
*** A combined saving from 2007-2012.
**** Equivalent representations - for example if you took all the avoidable potato waste and added it together, it weighs the same as 5.8 million potatoes.
***** A combined saving from 2012 to 2025
Link to report www.wrap.org.uk/household-food-waste
- WRAP works with businesses, individuals and communities to help them reap the benefits of reducing waste, developing sustainable products and using resources in an efficient way.
- Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by government funding from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- More information on all of WRAP's programmes can be found on www.wrap.org.uk