UK food waste – Historical changes and how amounts might be influenced in the future

This report provides an assessment of how food waste levels have changed historically in the UK, and the potential impact of a range of ‘exogenous’ factors and interventions on food waste levels in the future.

Key findings

  • The UK has had large-scale interventions in place since 2007 aimed at reducing food waste across supply chains, and within households. This contributed to a reduction in post-farm-gate food waste between 2007 and 2012 of around 12%, or 1.6 million tonnes.
  • Reductions in food waste by 2015 could amount to 2.0 million tonnes a year compared to 2007, preventing around £4 billion worth of food being wasted in 2015, and saving around 7.0 million tonnes of CO2e. Cumulatively, around 12 million tonnes of food waste would have been prevented between 2007 and 2015, with a value of around £24 billion, avoiding around 40 million tonnes of CO2e.
  • A reduction of 30% by 2025, from 2007 levels (when the UK ramped up efforts to decrease food waste), could be achieved but would be extremely challenging. The actual level of reduction is influenced by factors such as population levels, global economic conditions and food prices, in addition to the levels of interventions aimed at supporting food waste reduction.
  • There is a lack of data and research to accurately estimate the full social, economic and environmental costs and benefits of food waste reduction. However, the evidence available suggests that between 2015 and 2025 around 20 million tonnes of food waste could be prevented.
  • This would prevent £30 to £40 billion of food being wasted over the 10 year period (at present values), and avoid 60 to 70 million tonnes of CO2e being generated
  • The costs of achieving this could range from between £200 million and £530 million, over the 10 year period from 2015.

This report will inform discussions around the European Commission’s recent Circular Economy package which includes a proposal for an aspirational objective of a 30% reduction in food waste by 2025, and also the development of a proposed successor agreement to the Courtauld Commitment. Any future successor agreement would aim to deliver further reductions in food waste in addition to wider resource efficiency benefits, across the UK, to Governments, businesses, communities and individuals.