New research shows that annual UK household food waste has fallen by 13% / 1.1 million tonnes (mt) over a three year period from 8.3mt to an estimated 7.2mt. Avoidable household food waste (i.e. food that could have been eaten) has reduced by 950,000 tonnes, or 18%, from 5.3 to 4.4 million tonnes annually.
The report concludes: There is strong evidence from both waste and purchasing data that there has been a substantial reduction in the amount of food waste generated by households in the UK, which will have delivered huge benefits to the environment, in terms of reductions in CO2e emissions (3.6 million tonnes less per year), water usage (1 billion tonnes (equivalent to 1 billion m3 of water) less per year)and the amount of material sent to landfill (around 1 million tonnes). Although food price inflation means that the value of the lower level of avoidable food waste is similar to that in 2007, without this reduction, consumers would be spending around £2.5 billion a year more on food and drink that ends up as waste.
Determining the extent to which different factors have triggered, and then enabled, this reduction in household food waste is difficult. The tough economic times and rising food prices have undoubtedly contributed to the desire to maximise the value out of the food that is bought, and reduce food waste, and changes to the way waste is collected from households may also have helped raise awareness of the amount of food being thrown away. Work is in progress by WRAP to develop new approaches to help understand how all of these factors interact to motivate and bring about changes in food waste levels.
Although the findings presented in this report are extremely positive, it is important to recognise that household food waste remains the single largest contributor to overall UK food waste (around 50% of the total). Continued effort is required to bring about further significant reductions in the £12 billion worth of avoidable food waste associated with around 17 million tonnes of CO2e and a water footprint of 4.5 billion m3.
Further work is required to understand the detail behind these changes in household food waste, in particular around the types of food being thrown away, by different types of household. In addition, future research to track changes in household food waste will rely on there being a significant number of compositional studies carried out across the UK.
You can read the report here.