WRAP: Two-thirds of Brits don't see link between food waste and climate change

Better education on the links between food waste and climate change could encourage UK families to reduce the 6.6 million tonnes of food they bin at home every year.

Globally, food waste accounts for 8-10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions 

Globally, food waste accounts for 8-10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions 

That is according to a new report from NGO WRAP.

The report, released to mark the organisation’s first Food Waste Action Week Campaign, details the results of a recent survey of more than 4,000 adults in the UK, in which just 32% said they see a “clear link” between wasted food and greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, more than half saw a “clear link” between aviation and climate change, even though aviation is responsible for around 3% of annual global emissions, and food waste accounts for 8-10%.

WRAP is seeking to improve awareness by relating the climate impact of wasted food to the climate impacts of nations and countries. On the latter, it has stated that food waste would have the world’s third-largest annual carbon footprint if it were a nation, behind only the US and China.

When it comes down to specific kinds of food that are commonly wasted in UK homes, WRAP has calculated that:

  • Mitigating the 280 tonnes of poultry wasted in the UK every day would have the same climate impact, within a year, of planting 6.6 million trees.
  • Mitigating the 3.1 million glasses of milk wasted in the UK every day would have the same climate impact, within a year, of planting six million trees.
  • Mitigating the 4.4 million potatoes wasted in the UK every day would have the same climate impact, within a year, of planting 5.4 million trees.

WRAP is working with dozens of strategic partners to help engage businesses and the general public with these statistics. Individual partners include the environment ministers for England, Northern Ireland and Wales; the UK Government’s food waste champion Ben Eliot and Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain. Business partners include Aldi, Asda, Co-Op, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Waitrose & Partners, Nestle and Costa Coffee from the corporate space, alongside the likes of Toast Ale, Too Good to Go and Winnow.

Many of the Food Waste Action Week Campaign partners are already following WRAP’s food waste reduction roadmap and are working with each other on key programmes.

Cutting food waste is not just about saving money; it is a vital part of the work we are doing to tackle climate change and protect our precious environment,” Defra Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said.

“Far too much food is thrown away, but we can take action to address this. Food Waste Action Week is a key opportunity to bring the whole food supply chain together, from farm to fork, to tackle this important issue.”

Who wastes what?

The new WRAP report also provides an update on the size of the UK’s food waste mountain and the main contributors to the problem.

As has been the case in recent years, food waste in households (6.6 million tonnes) has outweighed the amount of food waste produced by businesses at all stages of the food value chain. Domestic food waste accounts for 70% of the national annual food waste mountain.

WRAP has noted, however, that many retailers are experiencing challenges with redistributing surplus food through their usual channels, due to lockdown restrictions. The impact of the pandemic on their food waste figures will be quantified in the coming months.

WRAP has also seen a trend towards behaviours in the home that can help to reduce food waste, such as batch cooking, freezing and using leftovers, since last March. Food waste from homes, on a monthly basis, is currently some 22% below pre-lockdown levels. WRAP is warning, though, that levels could rebound as lockdown lifts without support for behaviour change from bodies including businesses.

Sarah George



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