Food Waste in the UK

What is Food Waste?

Food waste is quite an important issue, which is also very familiar to our daily life. It is happening at a very big scale and causes some problems that are way more serious than we think. For example, about 18 billion tonnes of food is wasted in a year in the UK. Here are some more facts about food waste in the UK.

Which regions waste the most food?

As you can see, Europe wastes the second largest amount of food, closely following North America and Oceania. On top of this, U.K. Actually wastes the most food in Europe - 18 million tonnes a year.

It is also quite interesting how in places such as Europe, North America and Oceania and industrialised Asia, although the majority of the wasted food is from production to retailing, there is also a large proportion from the consumers. This may be because these countries are more economically developed and the consumers are offered way more than they need, leading them to buy too much.

What departments waste the most food:

Investigations show that the most common source of food waste is from households. This is 7 million tonnes wasted in a year, just from our houses. This is closely followed by food and drink manufacturers. They tend to waste a lot of things that could still be eaten, just because they don't suit the regulation shape or size. For example, many sandwich manufacturers will trash the crusts and the ends of each bread loaf. This explains how more than half of the food wasted, could actually still have been eaten.

Though the proportions are small, retails like supermarkets also waste a lot of food that could have still been eaten.

What types of food are wasted the most?

The most common reason of food being thrown away, is if the fresh fruit of vegetable goes off and is no longer edible. We can't stop the food from rotting, but it is important to check the "eat by" dates and form meals based on that, or simply don't buy more than you need. Another common factor of food waste is over cooked meals. This is more common in places like schools, where it is required to cook large quantities of them at once.

Why should we stop food waste?

Even though food waste can be associated with Global Goals such as "hunger", it's not the only one. Here are some problems food waste can cause.

Greenhouse Gas

During the process of disposal, greenhouse gas is produced. This adds up to a shocking amount of 3.3 billion tonnes a year. This means that if we completely get rid of food waste, the benefit will be equal to getting 1 in 4 cars off the road. Reducing food waste will also lead to slowing down climate change.


Drinks are the second most common type of food waste. When drinks are poured down the sink, a significant amount of water is needed to dilute it.

A lot of water is needed to create food; whether that's growing cops or feeding livestock. According to the national geographic, around 70% of the fresh water on earth is used to produce food. They also indicate that 660 gallons of water is needed to produce a single burger. Every time you throw away a burger, you are essentially wasting the 660 gallons of water used to produce it.


In the UK, it is illegal to just feed livestock like pigs our unwanted food. This means that farmers are importing food that are perfectly fine for us to eat, from places like America. This is a shame, as giving unwanted food to animals is a sufficient and easy way of getting rid of food.


It is estimated that on average, each family spends about £700 on food that they end up throwing away. By only buying what you need, you can save nearly £60 a month. Similarly, the UK hospitality sector spends £2.5 billion a year to tackle food waste. Although this is useful, if each one of us made an effort, it won't be necessary.

What can we do?

Between 2007 and 2012, we have already managed to avoid 21% of avoidable food waste across the world. This is a very good starting point, but what can people do to continue this?

What you can do:

  • When buying food, make sure to buy only what you need - it is useful to plan out a menu for a whole week etc
  • When at places like school cafeterias, only take what you can eat

What the school can do:

  • Calculate the amount of needed food and only cook that amount

What the local council can do:

  • Provide easier ways to recycle food waste - food can be recycled, but it only happens in some boroughs in London. If they made it available throughout all of London, the effects wouldn't be as bad.
  • Enforcing supermarkets to loosen regulations on product conditions, or sell it at a lower price.



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