Recent research has shown that household food waste has increased for the first time in a decade, meaning the food industry has failed to meet a commitment to cut it by 5% between 2012 and 2015.
I hate wasting food and will try really hard not to do it. I rarely pay attention to best before dates (if it looks and smells OK, I’ll eat it) and will cut away the mouldy bits on cheese, bread crusts and veg if I think the rest is still edible (once a student…)
I’ll even ask for a doggy bag if I can’t manage all my meal at a restaurant (much to the embarrassment of my co-diners).
But there are times when it’s unavoidable.
I usually come unstuck when I’ve got guests. I can’t very well expect them to eat food past its prime (especially if they’re accompanied by children), so will buy in fresh – and I’ll invariably overestimate.
For days after I’ll endeavour to use up the surplus. But even though I’m cutting away the bad bits, I can never seem to get through entire loaves of bread or packs of fruit and veg, and more often than not will have to admit defeat, consigning them to the food bin.
What a waste
After reading this week’s news that an estimated 7.3m tonnes of household food waste was thrown away in 2015 – up from 7m tonnes in 2012 – I’m feeling even more guilty about my excess.
To put it another way: that’s £13bn worth or £470 per average UK household.
And according to waste charity Wrap, which provided the figures, 4.4m tonnes was deemed to be ‘avoidable’ – compared with 4.2m tonnes in 2012.
Wrap, which is part funded by the government, also claimed that this generated 19m tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime. And preventing that pollution would be equivalent to taking one in four cars off UK roads.
Wales wastes less
The latest figures mean that the food industry has failed to meet a commitment to cut household food waste by 5% between 2012 and 2015.
However, some progress has been made on decreasing household food waste since Wrap started taking records ten years ago.
Between 2007 and 2012, total food waste fell by 15%, and avoidable food waste dropped by 21%, thanks to rising food prices, simplified best before date labels and campaigns to raise awareness.
Interestingly, Wales, where most councils provide homes with designated food waste bins, is outperforming the rest of the UK, with Welsh residents producing almost 10% less food waste per year than the average Brit.
So what’s being done about this gain to the UK’s food mountain?
Well, for starters, in a scheme being coordinated by Wrap, from this year signs will be erected in major supermarket aisles reminding customers about sensible portion sizes and how to store food correctly.
The charity also hopes that personalised messaging through online shopping, loyalty card schemes or apps could also help customers identify beneficial changes totheir shopping habits.
Community member Jon Hartshorn’s idea that supermarkets should be obliged to stock smaller prepacked vegetables and fruit as he finds it difficult to find pack sizes that suit his requirements was one that particularly resonated with me.
What would you like to see be done to reduce the UK’s household food waste?