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How Much Food Do Brits Waste?

Food waste is one of the world’s biggest environmental and economic problems. And while food waste levels of underdeveloped countries are lower, developed countries (like the UK) have tremendous levels of food waste. Since scientists are just starting to develop ways to recycle all that food waste - mainly by turning it into animal food and energy, we must approach the problem from another angle. Besides the immense impact of food waste on the environment, the impact on countries economies is definitely substantial. More specifically to households - better food management can make a difference on the family budget.

Types of Avoidable Food Waste

Bread thrown in to the rubbish, well used

According to a WRAP research on food waste, there are certain types people waste the most. What we waste mostly is surprisingly potatoes. 350 000 tons of uneaten potatoes go to waste every year in the UK. And we are not counting the potato peels, that could be used if cooked appropriately. Even more scandalous is that out of those 350 000 tons 177 400 tons go to waste whole and untouched. That’s 49 % of all potatoes produced.

Second most wasted type of food is its majesty - the slice of bread. Some believe tossing even a small piece of bread means bad luck. Brits obviously dismiss the notion since over 328 000 tons of bread slices end up in the junkyards every year. All of that bread waste is unnecessary and could easily be avoided. As is the next item on our list - apples. More than 190 000 tons of apples end up as rubbish every year and out of that 178 800 tons don’t even get tasted - all those apples become waste whole and untouched. Brits are world famous for eating fish and chips.

We already mentioned that potatoes hold the biggest share of food waste. Well, fish and meat too, hold up very well in that regard. 161 000 tons of perfectly good fish and meat meals are wasted every year in Britain.

Intriguingly salad is the type food bought and then thrown away uneaten in greatest proportions. Out of all purchased salad 45% by weight is what goes to trash bin, but even more alarmingly that is 60 % by cost. And if healthy salad is not valued by Brits, what about the all-too-important bread? Well after all that data, it comes as no surprise that 31 % of the purchased bakeries also reach the rubbish bin. Finally, 26% of all purchased fruits also end up tossed.

46 % of all avoidable food waste is fresh (raw) or marginally processed. 27 % of food that requires further processing/cooking is thrown away. Foods made with starchy are the most commonly thrown away. That includes 45 000 tons of rice, 105 000 tons of potatoes and 33 000 tons of pasta. Obviously we prepare too much. And buy too much, since either opened or not, nearly 1.2 million tons of food still in its packaging goes to waste.

How Much Food Do Brits Waste?

We described the most common foods wasted in UK, but as a total how much is it? Only the households in UK waste 6.7 million tons of food every year, making UK the country that wastes the most food in Europe. That’s about one third (21.7 million tons) of purchased food. About 88 % of that food waste, or 5.9 million tons is collected by local authorities. The remaining 12 % is collected by junk disposal companies or composted at home. The government is trying to implement recycling strategies but still a lot of food waste ends up in landfills and thus producing a powerful greenhouse gas - methane.

Over 61% of all that food could have been eaten if managed better. That is roughly 4.1 million tons. Only 19 % is truly unavoidable in current circumstances. Those are 1.3 million tons of mainly vegetable peelings, meat carpages and tea bags.”Possibly avoidable” waste - bread crusts - some people don’t eat those, for example.

Items that Are Thrown Away Whole and Unused

Food thrown away still packed.

We were talking tons thus far, but it’s hard to imagine how much that really is. Overall, one quarter of all avoidable food waste is thrown away whole and unopened. Most commonly thrown away whole are individual fruits - 2.9 billion fruits. Vegetables hold the second place with 1.9 billion pieces. 1.3 billion bakery items are thrown away per year in the UK. Much more are the grapes - 4.8 billion items. It seems almost all of the vegetables thrown away whole are potatoes - nearly 1.9 billion items. From the fruits, applies hold the record with 1.6 billion items. 1.2 billion slices of bread to go to waste too. 1 billion tomatoes (you know those are technically fruits, right?). Bread rolls come close with 775 million items tossed whole and unused. 484 million items of yoghurts and yoghurt drinks reach the rubbish bins unused. Nearly as much are the 440 million sausages to be wasted each year. 259 million chocolates and other sweets fail to heighten someone’s endorphin levels. Eggs and bacon - the best breakfast? Maybe not - 200 billion rations of bacon to be wasted each year. The meat based dishes to never reach a hungry mouth are 120 million.

8 % of all the listed avoidable food waste is still within the label date. Drinks amount to almost half - 49 % of the food still good to use when disposed of. 28 % of confectionaries end up tossed prematurely. The rest 35 % are the mighty condiments - such a waste!

How much does the avoidable food waste cost Brits?

The cost of food waste.

The cost of food that Brits pay for, but do not eat is revolting - 10.2 billion every year! For the average household each year that would be 420 pounds of food waste, that could have been avoided. Most expensive to us are fish and meat meals based waste the total cost being 602 million pounds. All slices of bread we throw account for 360 million pounds. The apples that go to waste cost us 317 million pounds. 302 million pounds we lose to potatoes.

Particularly costly is the food we throw whole and unopened - 2.3 billion pounds. Out of those 570 million pounds is the cost of whole and unopened fruits. Vegetables cost us 250 million. Untouched bakery items at the value of 300 million go to waste each year in the UK. Food thrown away still before it’s dated costs brits 950 million.

Who is wasting the most food in UK?

Perfectly good food thrown away in rubbish bins.

Everyone throws food that could have been consumed. On average that would be 70 kg. per person which, ironically, is the average person’s weight. Many households claim they don’t waste any food, but actually research shows they throw away 88 kg. of avoidable food waste. That's the equivalent of about 501 full kitchen bins! Not particularly surprising is the fact larger households waste more than smaller ones. Also, it stands to reason that households with children would waste more but that is mainly because there are more people. Single people waste the most per capita. It is somewhat of a common knowledge that older people waste more. Research however contests that - they waste 1.2 kg. per person per week or about the same as younger people. Households that compost at home waste less than those who never have done so. The former waste about 2.1 kg. per week, while the latter 3.3 kg. Comparison between the households committed to recycling waste and those that are not shows slight differences - 3.2 kg and 3.9 kg. per week respectively.

Why do Brits waste food?

Research reveals a few main reasons why avoidable food waste occurs. 1 225 700 tons of leftovers are worth 3.3 billion. Seems that brits suffer of gluttony. 808 000 tones passed its date are worth 2.2 billion pounds. We can forgive the 1.8 billion pounds spent for the 750 500 tons of food that looked, smelt or tasted bad. 465 700 tons of food we let go bad, essentially wasting 960 million pounds. The king of food waste - The Bad Food Management comes in play again to drain 830 million pounds for cooking leftovers.

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