What’s your water footprint? It’s a hot topic for World Water Day, but if you throw lots of food away you could be wasting more than you thought, due to new figures revealing the environmental impact of food waste.
Despite our best intentions, most of us end up throwing food away on a regular basis. For me, it’s often larger vegetables, like cabbage, that I buy for a Sunday roast and then can’t find a use for all week.
I’ve always consoled myself with the fact that it goes into the compost, eventually helping to (organically) feed my garden. Until today, that is, because a new study by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) and WWF has revealed some rather sobering facts about the environmental consequences of our food waste.
Food waste in numbers
The report calculated that the amount of water it would take to produce all the food UK householders throw away would equate to 6.2 billion cubic metres each year – or an astonishing 6% of all the UK’s water requirements.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the same wasted food also represents 14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of that created by 7 million cars each year.
This is all a real eye-opener for me. I try to throw away as little food as possible – I’m liberal when it comes to use-by dates and am happy to throw limp veg into soups – but my main motivation has always been not wanting to be wasteful. Stopping to consider how my wastefulness is multiplied down the food chain has never occurred to me before now.
The size of our water footprint
As Liz Goodwin, chief executive at WRAP, says, ‘These figures are quite staggering.’ She explains that the ‘water footprint’ for wasted food is 280 litres per person per day – that’s nearly twice the amount of water the average household uses every day.
And what’s shocked me more is to see the breakdown of who creates the most waste. Up there at the top isn’t retail, as I’d assume. It’s us. Yep, household waste accounts for more than half of the waste generated within the food supply chain, whereas retail only accounts for 7.6%.
We’ve all seen images of the huge amount of food waste created by supermarkets, which puts these figures into some context. In my mind, these findings should shake us into action to plan our meals, eat our leftovers and use the freezer – or we might as well watch water wash down the drain.