Report: UK’s food waste mountain has shrunk 480,000 tonnes since 2015

Domestic food waste and business food waste alike have decreased

The organisation’s latest report on the Courtauld Commitment 2025, which targets a 20% reduction in total food waste per person against a 2007 baseline, reveals that food waste fell by 7% on a per-person basis between 2015 and 2018.

WRAP attributes this trend to both business and household action. On the business front, food firms representing half of sector turnover have set time-bound numerical commitments to tackle food waste – many through WRAP’s Roadmap.

While food waste from households continued to account for the largest proportion of the UK’s food waste mountain in 2018, WRAP recorded a decrease of 1.4 million tonnes of waste from domestic sources between 2007 and 2018. The organisation noted that several behaviour change campaigns have been run around household food waste in that time period, including ‘Love Food, Hate Waste’ and VegPower’s ‘Eat Them to Defeat Them’.

Looking at food waste across the entire value chain, WRAP concluded that food waste reductions since 2015 have saved more than £1bn annually.

But the organisation is warning that there is still “much more to do” if the UK wants to meet Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 – halving food waste by 2030 – and to reach its long-term climate targets. Landfilled food releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over time, making it a contributor to climate change. The UK’s own Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommends that food waste is cut by one-fifth between 2021 and 2050 in order to reach net-zero.

“[Halving food waste by 2030] really matters because it is untenable that we carry on wasting food on such a monumental scale when we are seeing the visible effects of climate change every day, and when nearly a billion people go hungry every day,” WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover said.

“This great news announced today means we are starting to wake up to the reality of food waste, but we are too often turning a blind eye to what is happening in our homes.”

Key recommendations

While praising business progress on food waste reduction – and the Government’s boost for business support on the issue over the past two years – WRAP is urging more action on the 4.5 million tonnes of foods wasted in UK homes, from citizens, business and Government alike.

On the Government piece, the Resources and Waste Strategy includes proposals for weekly household food waste collections to be offered to all UK residents. But consultations around implementing this change are ongoing. As such, the collections are not likely to be rolled out until 2023.

As for businesses, WRAP has long been campaigning for retailers to change labelling in order to reduce confusion around ‘best before’ dates, which indicate that the quality of a product may deteriorate, and ‘use by’ dates, which indicate when it becomes less safe to consume the food. The organisation estimates that around 600,000 tonnes of consumer food waste are triggered each year due to the misunderstanding. In the absence of policy mandating them to do so, WRAP also encourages businesses to redistribute surplus food wherever possible, forging partnerships to do so if necessary.

Supply chains are an additional bugbear for WRAP. Since 2015, businesses have recorded, on average, a food waste reduction of just 4% in this space.

Responding to WRAP’s report, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “. As a world-leader in the fight against food waste, it is good news that we are making a real difference.

“But while this is encouraging, there is more to be done – and I urge all households, individuals and businesses to consider how they can reduce their own food waste footprint to create a better world for generations to come.”

Sarah George

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