The UK has a program called, “Love Food Hate Waste.” I know as Americans we love food too but I don’t think we hate waste. I have always had more than enough food to eat and am not particularly fond of eating leftovers, especially if they weren’t good in the first place. I have always felt a little guilty dumping food into the garbage knowing there are people starving in other parts of the world. Until recently I hadn’t thought too much about the effect food waste has on the environment.
The EPA Waste Wise program
we belong to is now encouraging businesses to participate in a Food Recovery Program. “Food waste is the third largest waste stream in the United States (after paper and yard waste). In 2008, 32 million tons of food waste was generated. Of that, 31 million tons (97%) was thrown away into landfills or incinerators. When excess food, leftover food, and food scraps are disposed of in a landfill they decompose and become a significant source of methane — an extremely potent green house gas. Much of this “waste” is not waste at all, but actually safe, wholesome food that could potentially feed millions of Americans. Excess food, leftovers and scraps that are not fit for consumption and donation can be used to feed the soil by recycling (composting) food waste into a nutrient rich soil amendment.” This is a good thing but the Love Food Hate Waste campaign does even better by encouraging people to reduce the amount of waste they produce in the first place by careful portion planning, proper storage and by using leftovers creatively.
The information about food waste in the UK is quite compelling. Reducing the amount of food waste we produce can not only save us money but also help save our environment.
Published on 9 November 2009, this report provides an updated estimate of the amounts and types of food and drink we buy but don’t eat.
The issue of food and drink waste has moved up the social and political agenda in recent years. This was spurred in part by WRAP’s publication in May 2008 of research quantifying the types of food and drink wasted in the UK.
Since then further research has been undertaken to quantify the amount of foods and drink disposed of via the sewer, Down the Drain
– which has been published alongside this report. Given this and other new data, WRAP has updated estimates of household food and drink waste in the UK.
In the UK we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink every year. Most of this is avoidable and could have been eaten if only we had planned, stored and managed it better. Less than a fifth is truly unavoidable – things like bones, cores and peelings.
We throw away food for two main reasons; of the avoidable food and drink waste, 2.2 million tonnes is thrown away due to cooking, preparing or serving too much and a further 2.9 million tonnes is thrown away because it was not used in time.
For example, of the avoidable food and drink, we throw away:
· 860,000 tonnes of fresh vegetables and salads
· 870,000 tonnes of drink
· 500,000 tonnes of fresh fruit
· 680,000 tonnes of bakery
· 660,000 tonnes of home made and pre-prepared meals
· 290,000 tonnes of meat and fish
· 530,000 tonnes of dairy and eggs
· 190,000 tonnes of cakes and desserts
· 67,000 tonnes of confectionery and snacks
All this wasted food is costly; in the UK we spend £12 billion every year buying and then throwing away good food. That works out at £480 for the average UK household, increasing to £680 a year for households with children – an average of just over £50 a month.
Food waste is also harmful to the environment. Throwing away food that could have been eaten is responsible for the equivalent of 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year – that’s the same as the CO2 emitted by one in every four cars on UK roads. It’s not just the methane that’s released when the food goes to landfill that’s the problem, but also the energy spent producing, storing and transporting the food to us.
Tackling the issue of food waste is an enormous challenge, not least because most of us don’t yet recognise the amount we produce. It is also a massive opportunity – to reduce waste, save money and minimise our impact on the environment.
The food we waste
report has been superseded by Household Food & Drink Waste in the UK
, but is available on request