Why we need to take action on food waste
Producing food requires significant resources including land, energy and water. Globally, 25–30% of total food produced is lost or wasted, and food waste is estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to contribute 8-10% of total man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter after China and the USA.
Great progress has been made in the UK, but food waste from households and businesses is still around 9.5 million tonnes (Mt), 70% of which was intended to be consumed by people (30% being the ‘inedible' parts). This had a value of over £19 billion a year, and would be associated with more than 25 Mt of GHG emissions. The food that could have been eaten (6.4 Mt) would make the equivalent of over 15 billion meals – enough to feed the entire UK population 3 meals a day for 11 weeks. There is no comparable estimate for food waste pre-farm gate in the UK, but WRAP has estimated food waste levels from primary production at 1.6 Mt.
10 million cars
The GHGs associated with the 9.5 Mt of food waste in the UK is around 25 million tonnes CO2e – which is equivalent to c.5% of UK territorial emissions and the same as 10 million cars (or 1 in 3 cars on UK roads).
In addition to food ending up as waste, around 700,000 tonnes of food surplus from manufacturing, retail and hospitality and food service is either being redistributed via charitable and commercial routes (56,000 tonnes in 2018 ) or being diverted to produce animal feed (around 660,000 tonnes in 2015). Both of these are classed as waste prevention according to food material hierarchy. Around 2 Mt of food surplus may also be arising on farm.
The UN's Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 is to halve food waste by 2030. To achieve this in the UK, further reductions in food waste of 1.8 Mt are needed, 1.3 Mt from homes and over half a million tonnes from across the supply chain.
What can my organisation do?
Using WRAP's tools and guidance, organisations can work out what types of waste to measure and how to measure it. By working with WRAP your organisation can improve processes, find new techniques and implement best practice in your supply chain.
The Courtauld Commitment 2025
The Courtauld Commitment 2025's collaborative action and working groups put the UK on track to achieving UN SDG 12.3.
Food Waste Reduction Roadmap
The UK's largest retailers, food producers and manufacturers, and hospitality and food service companies have committed to 'Target, Measure, Act' on food waste.
Guardians of Grub
Our food waste reduction campaign to tackle the £3 billion of food thrown away at hospitality and food service outlets.
Surplus food redistribution
WRAP works with food retailers, manufacturers, hospitality and food service businesses and redistribution organisations, together with industry bodies to remove barriers to surplus food redistribution.
Farmers and growers
WRAP's research has highlighted the significant financial, environmental and efficiency benefits of tackling food waste in primary production, and we work directly with farmers and growers to address this.
We use our expertise in managing successful voluntary agreements to help governments worldwide achieve their sustainability goals in food and drink.
Support for citizens
By cutting food waste the average UK household can save £500 each year and positively contribute to the UK's waste reduction targets. In 2018 WRAP research showed we threw away 6.6 Mt of household food waste. Whilst attitudes towards food waste have improved, research shows that 70% of people in the UK believe they have no food waste.
Love Food Hate Waste
Currently over 4.5 Mt of food that could have been eaten are wasted from UK households. We aim to cut this by 50% by 2030 ( against a 2015 baseline ) by raising awareness and inspiring citizens towards positive behaviour change.
Food date labelling
Key information on how to apply food date labels, storage and freezing advice to ensure food is safe to eat, reduce consumer food waste and remove barriers to redistribution.
WRAP has launched a bold new brand aimed at driving home the message that wasting food has a huge impact on climate change, and that we can all help reduce our CO2 emissions by being more conscious of not wasting food. Called Wasting Food: It’s Out of Date, the new brand has been created to communicate the simple message that wasting food is now as socially unacceptable as littering or not wearing a seatbelt.
The brand will partner WRAP’s existing Love Food Hate Waste campaign, but use more direct and harder-hitting messaging to reach those people who may not yet be aware of the connection between wasting food and climate change. It will show that we all have the power to help to reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions, and halve our food waste by 2030. It will put initial focus on 18–34-year-olds through social media to show that, like plastic pollution, wasting food has a huge impact on the environment.
In addition, WRAP will trailblaze a new week of action in March 2021 to wake the nation up to the environmental consequences of wasting food. 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. Wasted food contributes 8–10% of total man-made GHG emissions, and roughly one third of food produced around the world is wasted.
5 November 2020