Food waste: 'Six meals a week' thrown away by Britons


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British families throw away an average of the equivalent of six meals per week in food waste, research has suggested.

Publicly-funded recycling group the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said this would amount to £60 a month for a household.

Wrap said buying too much, serving large portions and confusion over food labelling were the main causes.

Its chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin called on stores, food manufacturers and government to tackle the situation.

Start Quote

Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food. Yet are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds”

End Quote Dr Liz Goodwin Wrap chief executive

The foods most commonly thrown out were staples such as bread, milk and potatoes. Some 86 million chickens were said to be discarded every year.

Wrap advised people to buy just what they need, serve smaller portions, and understand the difference between "best before" and "use by" dates.

'Terrific achievement '

The organisation, funded by the governments of the UK and the EU, said households had cut food waste by 21% over five years, saving consumers £13bn.

But Dr Goodwin said this could be reduced by a further 1.7 million tonnes a year by 2025.

She said: "Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food and how it has increased over recent years. Yet, as Wrap's research shows, we are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds.

"The UK is leading the way in tackling food waste and the 21% cut is a terrific achievement by millions of people who have taken action, saved money and helped safeguard our natural resources.

"However, there is so much more to go for and I believe we should be going for it."

The government's resource management minister, Dan Rogerson, said "there is still more to do".

"Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste and we want to see businesses helping consumers to waste less food," he said.

'Cosmetic reasons'

"Cutting waste and driving business innovation will help to build a stronger economy. We will continue to work closely with food retailers and manufacturers to achieve this goal."

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, rejected the suggestion that supermarket price promotions were to blame.

He said: "The organisation that published the figures did do research on the impact of promotions a couple of years ago and actually didn't find a direct link between promotions and food waste.

"The really important points are just simple things that have shown we can make a difference in our own homes - knowing the difference between a best before and a use by date, thinking about how we store the food and also using our freezers a bit more."

Niki Charalampopoulou, from the campaign group Feeding the 5000, told the BBC there was also a huge problem with waste in the supply chain - often for purely cosmetic reasons.

"A farmer sometimes is forced to waste between 20% and 40% of the food they produce.

"And the problem is not only limited to UK suppliers - we have also worked in Kenya with a UN environment programme where we have seen Kenyan farmers waste up to 40 tonnes of food every week because it doesn't fit the standards of EU and UK."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 297.


    People have too much money these days and therefore buy too much food and throw away what they don't need.

    Yeah cut their benefits, scroungers. I pay my taxes and work 90 hours a week so they can throw away food.

    Seriously, I am wondering whether or not this report will be used by the government to cut benefits even lower.

    If you've got too much food, give it to a food bank.

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    Obviously the solution is to introduce Soylent Green

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    In a society where sloth is subsidised and personal responsibility usurped by the welfare state, is it any surprise that 'Six meals a week, £60 a month for a household' is being wasted?

    I feel that if people's personal responsibility was emphasised, by having it returned to them, we'd see a much more frugal society than what we in today's Nanny State.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Said it before and I'll say it again:
    "Best before" doesn't necessarily mean "Worst after"
    Most foodstuffs can be used the next day or two as well, you can turn a chicken carcase into chicken soup, for example, or if you've had a meal with potatoes and veg, you could have bubble and squeak, this is pure ignorant consumerism at its finest.
    Meanwhile, some people are going to food banks for a meal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    It all about education !!!

    Don't buy cheap rubbish example Chateauneuf du pape. gets better if you lay it down and keep it.
    Smoked Salmon/Venison/Wild Boar keep very well Foie Gras will keep a long time. Stop buying rubbish that will go off quickly. Most game even has to be matured. Could you imagine not letting stilton ripen before eating ? no its all about education !

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Stories that are debated on HYS on a grimly regular basis No.32: food waste. Along with HS2, fuel prices, immigration and Islamism contributors should saving their comments in word or Notepad the first time around then a quick copy+paste will save time and effort in subsequent debates. Like Cameron and Milliband do at PMQs...

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    "Why doesn't the report say which groups of society throw food away?"

    - Typical leftie nonsense comment. Waste and poor planning is more to do with a mind set and nothing to do wealth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    Consider. Waste food going to landfill is a real boost to rat & Gull populations. Creating health risk from disease ridden rats. Not to mention the Gull poo everywhere.
    An of course there is limited landfill space available. So more pressure on land use
    We've been encouraged to be a disposal society & it'll take years to change these attitudes

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    The food waste in the supply chain is a much higher than in households, although not to say it all shouldnt be improved. Not so surprised that for 8 meals eaten around 1 meal of food is thrown away, and that 1 meal could include a lot of unappetizing food (6 meals a week per UK household, av 2.3 persons, broadly equates to 2.5 meals our of say 21 meals a week).

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    On the subject of waste. We are as householders made by our local councils to put waste in one of various boxes/wheelie bins to meet recycling targets. OK as long as they do not get stupidly vindictive. Yet businesses (think of pubs and hotels) have no such requirements and just lob out the empties in the normal rubbish - no recycling. How fair is that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    I throw away food all the time, I also throw food wrappers on the street. I'll do what I want, when i want and no fat cat government is gonna tell me otherwise. Why? Because i pay my taxes. I have as much right to mess up the UK as anyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    People have too much money these days and therefore buy too much food and throw away what they don't need. Also supermarkets are to blame, due to all the BOGOF offers, so people end up buying far too much food, more than theyever actually need or will eat..

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.


    @232 Chezza
    "Because supermarkets sell 3 for the price of 2 to cynically drive up their profits"
    No they don't, profit margins are very low; they do it to increase turnover. We canny shoppers know this and make the most of these offers. There is very little food wasted in our house...
    PS - businesses rely on profit, why is this cynical?
    Not my comment, ask 222.annieavatar

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.


    'If you're poor, buy food from a market, much cheaper and healthier than the takeaways they seem to eat all the time. '

    What if the market is open when you work and the greengocer has closed? What if you never learnt to cook and daren't risk wasting food as you learn? I can see why a ready meal can seem the better option to some. (I buy a few myself)

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    It is cheaper to buy a large pack of food and waste some then it is to buy a small pack

    Thats been true of carrots & onions iny local supermarket for a while, its actually cheaper to buy a larger pack & waste some than buying loose or even buying a smaller pack

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    It's interesting how we have no reservation about effectively burning money by throwing food (an essential) away on the premise that it's a choice however berate price increases on other essentials such as energy because its not our choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Best Buy - £1
    Get 4 pints for the price of 1.
    Or is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    I think the main cause of food waste in the western world is a huge disconnection from the food production system. If you have ever grown your own food, you'll realise the love, care and attention that's goes in to producing it and there is no way you would blindly throw it away. You'd FIND a use for it. Many of our problems today seem to stem from this disconnection to reality/nature/the Earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    244. gobbc
    @232 Chezza
    "Because supermarkets sell 3 for the price of 2 to cynically drive up their profits"
    No they don't, profit margins are very low
    Tesco's pre-tax profits in the six months to 24 August were £1.39bn... down on last year!

    A lot of profit for glorified shelf stacking...

    Too much for doing too little, as usual the public is being fleeced on all fronts...

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    You lot chat amongst yourselves...

    I'm off to find some news!


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