A reported drop in food waste gives us real hope for the future

Sarah Clayton, Head of Citizen Behaviour Change

Sarah Clayton, Head of Citizen Behaviour ChangeLike everyone, I’ve been adapting to my new life in lockdown. With continued concerns about loved ones combined with entertaining an energetic toddler whilst working from home, it’s not been without challenge, but now that we’re in week eight of this new reality I’m starting to find some kind of rhythm.

Part of that rhythm involves mealtimes. I’m at home for lunch more than ever before since the WRAP team are all working remotely, and I’m enjoying eating more meals at home with my daughter. Being at home more means we’ve got more of an opportunity to cook together but also I can pay attention to what food I’ve got in the kitchen.

WRAP has always been at the forefront of research when it comes to how people in the UK manage their food at home. With all of us finding that our relationship with food is changing in the current situation, we decided to find out if this was common across all UK citizens. Lockdown has affected almost every aspect of our lives, so what impact is this was having on what we buy, eat, or waste?

I was thrilled to see that people are reporting such a significant decrease in what they waste. Positive change was evident pretty much across the board, and when we look at four of the most wasted foods in UK homes (potatoes, bread, chicken, milk), people said they were wasting 34% less. We track key behaviours in a regular citizen survey, so we can see a clear change that has taken place since last November 2019 – it will be interesting to see how this trend develops.

On average, people said that they have picked up (or done more frequently) six behaviours that have helped them manage food better since lockdown began. You can find the full list of these behaviours in the report we published today.

Our resident expert, Helen White, often says that the freezer is your best friend when it comes to reducing food waste, and it’s certainly my default setting. Our research showed that lots of people across the UK agree with us and found this the most useful way to make their food last longer.

To really cement this change, and make sure these new behaviours are woven into our everyday lives, WRAP will continue to share advice directly with citizens to help them become even more au fait with ways to reduce food waste. However, this isn’t something we can do alone.

Our research showed an interesting correlation between communication and action. People who could recall having read or hearing about food waste as an issue were more likely to adopt behaviours that led to food being wasted less. This should encourage us and partners to be bold in how we work towards this common goal: the more people we can reach with our messages, the more people we should see making a positive change.

WRAP is, by its very nature, a collaborative organisation. We work with a variety of partners to achieve our ambitions and reducing food waste is no exception. We’ve seen how resilient people in the UK have been during this unprecedented time; people are willing to make a change. Our task will be to help people understand why these changes will continue to matter long after lockdown ends.

We’re helping more people than ever through our longstanding campaign Love Food Hate Waste. There are plenty of ways partners can support the incredible work this campaign does, which will only lead to more people wasting less food. It is sometimes said that a single voice can be louder than a crowd, but in this case it will take every voice we can find to help communicate this message. From retailers to local authorities, charities to trade bodies, there is room for everyone in the fight against food waste.

If we can inspire such significant change during one of the most challenging times many of us will ever face, imagine what we can do when life gets back to a bit of normality?