Food waste: The UK
Food waste is defined as ‘Food which is uneaten, wasted and lost during the food supply chain, production, retail and consumption’. It is estimated that in the UK alone 9.5 million tonnes of food is wasted a year, despite there being an estimated 8.4 million people living in food poverty (Hall, 2022). Last year as a nation we:
- Wasted 50 million chickens
- The average family spent £470 on food which ended up being wasted
- 100 million tonnes of milk were poured down the drain
- Supermarkets generated around 240,000 tonnes of food waste
(Friends of Earth, 2022)
The food chain process can be split into two stages, the ‘upstream’ and ‘downstage’ stage. The upstream stage refers to the beginning of the process, where food is grown, harvested, and processed for sale. The ‘downstream’ stage accounts for the distribution and use by consumers, in a retail or home environment. Both processes generate food waste however, waste in the downstream stage has a greater environmental impact, as further down the chain the food travels, the use of resources and energy increases (Lewis,2022).
This degree of food waste is not only a social and moral issue, but also has a huge impact on our planet and climate change.
The impact of food waste
Food waste impacts our planet in several different ways and currently accounts for 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC).
- Food waste is ultimately a waste of natural resources. The natural resources we use for food production, such as fuel and water are wasted when food is thrown away. Agriculture is responsible for around 70% of water used across the globe, including water for crops and animals. Additionally, the amount of fossil fuels burnt to operate machinery and transport food is mammoth, this wasted energy contributes further to both resource wastages and greenhouse gases.
- Food waste is left in landfill, rotting, and releasing methane gases into the environment. Methane is a powerful greenhouses gas with a 100-year global warming potential 28-34 times that of carbon dioxide, having a huge impact on global warming.
- Food waste damages Biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the ecosystem and environment in which species and organisms live in. Food production disrupts this natural biodiversity by contributing to deforestation, water use and emits carbons. When land is so greatly impacted by food production, the waste of food is criminal.
Ways you can combat food waste
Combating food waste starts with you, the consumer, and can be done in small steps to reduce climate change and global warming.
- Create a meal plan. A meal plan can prevent food waste and help you utilise what you already have in the house, as well as being an effective way of budgeting money spent on food. Use our Nourished Life meal planner!
- Cook in batches. Freeze leftovers and use for meals later in the week, not only does this reduce food waste, but it also saves both money and time.
- Instead of throwing away spoiled fruit and veg or peelings, add them to your own compost, therefore, reducing landfill and providing nutrition for your garden plants.
- Purchase ‘ugly’ produce. Many supermarkets are now selling ‘wonky’ or ‘ugly’ fruit and veg, which would have gone to waste as it failed to meet retail standards. Companies such as Oddbox and Wonkyvegboxes deliver monthly wonky veg boxes.
- See this months Nourished Life recipe ‘Fridge frittata’ to use up your wonky veg and leftovers.
Hall, M. (2022, September 26). Food waste 2022 The facts. Business Waste. https://www.businesswaste.co.uk/food-waste-2022-the-facts/
Solving the problem of food waste. (2022). Friends of the Earth. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/food-waste
Lewis, J. (2022, October 17). How Does Food Waste Affect the Environment? Earth.Org. https://earth.org/how-does-food-waste-affect-the-environment/