Food Waste Statistics
Whilst the lockdown in 2020 was terrible for several reasons, it was a dark cloud with one silver lining. According to a report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), called Life Under Covid-19: Food waste attitudes and behaviours in 2020, household food waste dropped significantly.
But, why is that significant? To answer that question, we must first dive into some food waste statistics.
The Food Waste Problem
According to WRAP’s 2018 report on food waste, the UK produces around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste annually.
With 43 million tonnes of food waste sold, that’s around 22% wasted.
The waste can be attributed to various sectors in the following proportions:
- Households: 6.6 million tonnes (69%)
- Food manufacturers: 1.5 million tonnes (16%)
- Hospitality and food service: 1.1 million tonnes (12%)
- Retail industry: 0.3 million tonnes (3%)
Now, according to WRAP, this is an improvement from 2007, when the reported food waste was 11.2 million tonnes. However, even with a 15% reduction, the amount is still considerable.
In monetary terms, that’s £19 billion being thrown out.
And, worst of all, around 6.4 million tonnes of it—an equivalent of 15 billion meals— could have been eaten.
What do we mean by “could have been eaten”?
Food waste can be categorised into edible (extra food on plates, expired food or food that has gone bad, etc.) and inedible (bones, eggshells, fruit pits, peels, etc.).
The latter is unavoidable—you cannot eat bones, for example, but they are a byproduct of your meal.
However, edible waste can definitely be reduced by managing food better.
Again, you might ask why reducing food waste is so essential. After all, if almost 70% of it is from people’s homes, and they are happy to waste their money, what’s the problem?
The problem is greenhouse gases (GHGs), like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and water vapour.
More specifically, 9.5 million tonnes of food waste releases 25 million tonnes of GHGs. If food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest producer of GHGs.
And, GHGs are a problem because they contribute to global warming.
The Impact of Food Waste on the Planet
We’ve discussed how your food choices can affect the planet, but the food that you waste has a larger effect.
The carbon footprint of our food is measured in terms of the CO2 produced in producing, processing, packaging, and transporting it before it reaches your plate.
So, any food you throw out already has released some GHGs into the atmosphere. But, now, once the food waste ends up in landfills, it undergoes anaerobic decomposition to release more CH4 and CO2, adding to an already existing problem.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Food Waste Habits
As we mentioned earlier, Covid-19 seems to have had an impact on people’s food usage. In the Life Under Covid-19 report, WRAP compared the self-reported wastage of 24.1% in November 2019 against 18.7% in November 2020.
In fact, in April 2020, at the beginning of the lockdown, self-reported food waste was at an all-time low of 13.7%.
According to 79% of the respondents, this was because of the new food management behaviour they adopted.
- 41% reported that they planned their shopping better by checking what they already had.
- 35% said they were managing food better by checking expiration dates.
- 30% claimed they were using up leftovers more.
While these numbers are gradually growing again, they are still lower than pre-lockdown results.
When people were at home, they were more likely to cook meals from scratch. Since popping out to the shops was more challenging, people were more careful with how they used ingredients at home.
Whilst remote working is more common now than it was before, things are returning to normal. As a result, people were slowly falling back into old patterns.
Then, inflation hit.
The Impact of Inflation on People’s Food Habits
With rising grocery costs, consumers are again forced to be smart with their food and spending.
According to a report from consumer research platform Attest, 20% of Brits are buying fewer fresh fruit and vegetables, whilst a third have reduced the amount of food they buy.
People spent an average of £67.56 a week on groceries in September 2022 compared to £59.16 in March 2022. But, unfortunately, that higher spending does not equal more food.
With the rise in prices, shoppers are now ditching fresh and healthy for cheap and potentially unhealthy eating choices.
At the same time, 67% of the consumers reported they were now ignoring expiration dates on food items and consuming them. Almost 20% said that this was a new habit they adopted. This also aligns with the decision made by supermarkets to get rid of “best before” and “use by” dates on food items.
Reducing Food Waste for a Better Future
It is unfortunate that our food habits improve only in times of adversity. However, as awareness grows, people are making more of an effort to manage their food better.
The UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap is an initiative by WRAP and the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) for retailers, food manufacturers, and hospitality & food service companies to tackle waste through a series of milestones.
Of course, when food waste is inevitable, proper management can help the impact it has on the planet.
Sending food waste to be anaerobically digested is the best way of making sure it is dealt with responsibly whilst also generating green energy and biofertiliser.
At BioteCH4, we are committed to making sure your food waste does not add to your carbon footprint any more than it has to. If you’d like to find out more about our services and how we can help you, please do get in touch.
Food Waste Management
If you’d like to talk to us about your food waste or waste cooking oil collection from commercial premises over the coming weeks, then please get in touch with a member of the team..