UK wastes £12bn worth of food and drink a year

11 November 2009

British households dispose of £12 billion worth of food and drink waste each year - two thirds of which is avoidable, a WRAP report has claimed.

Published on Monday (November 9), the study indicated that 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink waste is disposed of annually, which equates to 330kg per householder per year.

The study found that UK households dispose of �12 billion worth of food and drink each yearThe report, entitled ‘Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK', claimed that this amounted to £480 wasted per household on unused food and drink each year.

In the 95-page document, WRAP assessed how much of the waste was avoidable and found that 5.3 million tonnes could have been salvaged, with the most common cause being cited as food or drink "not being used in time".

It classed material as "avoidable" if it was edible before becoming waste, while it also determined whether it was "possibly avoidable" (things that could be edible - such as potato skins and bread crusts), as well as "unavoidable" waste such as tea bags, pineapple skins and egg shells.

WRAP concludes the report by stating: "This report provides evidence on the scale of household food and drink waste in the UK. Whether expressed as an absolute amount, or as the proportion of household purchases of food and drink, there is a sizeable quantity generated and the majority of it could have been avoided."

In total, WRAP found that 25% of purchased food went to waste and it was found that, when combined, 22% of total food and drink purchases were wasted.

Figures

In compiling the study, the government-funded body used material from waste database WasteDataFlow, Defra's ‘Review of Municipal Waste Composition' and its own ‘Food We Waste' report, which was published in May 2008 (see letsrecycle.com story).

The figures in the 2009 report show a jump from the findings of the ‘Food We Waste' report, which were condemned at the time as "shocking" by then minister for waste Joan Ruddock.

In 2008, WRAP found 6.7 million tonnes of food was wasted and claimed 4.1 million tonnes of this was avoidable, while the 2009 figures claimed that seven million tonnes of food waste was being wasted annually by Britons, with 4.5 million tonnes of that being deemed avoidable.

The major foodstuffs wasted in terms of tonnages were: fresh vegetable and salads (1.9 million tonnes); fruit waste (1.1 million tonnes); and, bakery waste (800,000 tonnes).

In terms of monetary value, the WRAP study found that the most expensive food waste was ‘mixed meals' - meaning a meal prepared from various different food stuffs - which accounted for £2.1 billion worth of waste. It was claimed in the study that "almost all of this is avoidable".

The 2009 figures included information on the amount of drink waste in the UK. The study found that drink waste was smaller than food waste, amounting to 1.3 million tonnes of which 0.87 million tonnes was considered avoidable.

Sewers

WRAP claimed that the study includes improved estimates of how much waste is created due to the inclusion of indications of the amount of food and drink wasted through the sewer system - thanks to a WRAP research project entitled ‘Down the Drain'.

The project saw 300 participants keep diaries on where and how much food they disposed of through the sewer system, and it estimated that 1.8 million tonnes of food and drink was disposed of down sinks and toilets.

Despite the report claiming that the issue of food and drink waste "moving up the political agenda", there was no mention in the document of ‘Buy One, Get One Free' offers, which have come under scrutiny for increasing the amount of perishable food waste.

wastepack