The Covid-19 pandemic is having a profound effect on citizens’ daily lives, including wide-reaching impacts on food behaviours. WRAP undertook a comprehensive series of four UK-wide surveys – in April, May, September and November 2020 – to understand how it has affected citizens’ food habits, behaviours and attitudes. Each of the surveys were undertaken online with large (4,000+) independent samples of UK adults with responsibility for food shopping and/or preparation.
Food waste in 2020: a summary
The adoption of new food management behaviours* led to a sharp decrease in reported levels of food being wasted – from 24.1% in November 2019 to 13.7% in April 2020 (a fall of 43%). By June food waste had rebounded to some degree (to 17.9%) which then stabilised across the summer to September. Food waste then inched slowly up in the latter part of the year, reaching 18.7% in November. This, however, remains 22% below pre-lockdown levels.
Based on the latest estimates, just over one in four UK citizens (27%) classify as having higher levels of food waste. This is in line with the June 2020 and September 2020 results (both 27%), but above the result in April (20%). Most importantly of all, it remains well below November 2019 (34%).
As life returns to normal a lack of time will be the primary barrier to maintaining lockdown behaviours (with those returning to normal and reporting feeling under time pressure consistently reporting higher levels of food waste across 2020). The return to eating out and the impact on displaced meals** also presents a key challenge to keeping levels of food waste at current levels.
Love Food Hate Waste and Food Waste Action Week
Love Food Hate Waste campaigns continue to be highly effective in encouraging behaviour change but require greater reach with the support of partners.
The inaugural Food Waste Action Week will run from Monday 1 to Sunday 7 March 2021 and will bring together organisations from retailers to local authorities, restaurants to manufacturers, and beyond. WRAP will work with a variety of partners to show that wasted food is an issue that affects everyone – and the planet.
* Levels of food waste were notably higher in the September survey among those who said their food shopping and preparation behaviours had returned to normal compared to those who say they have kept many of their lockdown behaviours. Likewise, in the June survey levels of food waste were higher among those who had a change in working circumstances (e.g. furloughed, reduced hours, working from home) and had then returned to normal. By contrast, the same groups (i.e. furloughed/worked reduced hours) but who had not yet returned to normal reported lower levels of food waste.
** A meal that was planned but was ‘displaced’ by an unplanned take away/meal out.
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Life under Covid-19: Food waste attitudes and behaviours in 2020
PDF, 2.16 MB