The recent Courtauld Commitment 2030 annual summit was a timely reminder that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted globally each year, a third of all food produced.
The UK alone throws away 6.6 million tonnes of household food annually and almost 75% of this is edible.
Food production and consumption account for around 30% of global carbon emissions.
Read those figures again. Whether you are shocked by the waste of money, the impact on prices, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate crisis, or all the above – this is why we need to commit to redouble our efforts and act now, wherever we are in the value chain. Progress so far is insufficient, but where we need to focus action next is clear.
Here are four game-changers we can all support to take a big bite out of food waste.
1. Tackle preventable waste in manufacturing and retail
Wrap’s Food Surplus and Waste Quantification report demonstrates over half of the food waste generated by the UK manufacturing and retail sectors is preventable.
A combination of three action areas – reduction and prevention of waste arising in the first place, redistribution of food surplus, and diversion of remaining surplus to animal feed – could lead to a significant reduction in avoidable food waste and save businesses millions of pounds a year.
2. Help consumers buy what they need
Seventy per cent of UK food waste comes from households – that’s 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from food going into the bin. But before we heap the blame on consumers, let’s acknowledge many actions are influenced by the way products are packed and sold. Wrap’s research explored the relationship between plastic packaging and five fruit and vegetable items UK households frequently throw away, and found huge scope to cut both food waste and plastic packaging.
Retailers have a powerful opportunity to help shoppers buy what they will use. Several have started selling uncut fresh produce loose, removing date labels and providing best practice on-pack storage guidance. If all UK retailers implemented all three changes, 100,000 tonnes of household food waste could be prevented annually, removing 10,300 tonnes of plastic packaging and a combined emissions equivalent of 130,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
3. Stop waste at the source
A lesser known, but crucial, area to highlight is on-farm waste. Recent WWF estimates put farm food waste at 1.2 billion tonnes globally and 3.3 million tonnes in the UK, which is similar to our own estimates. This is as large as food waste at any other stage of the supply chain and uses up a land area greater than the Indian subcontinent.
Wrap research shows a potential 20% increase in farm profits if food waste in agriculture is reduced to the lowest reported rates. Measuring is the first step in tackling waste. Insight into what is being wasted shows what can be prevented, driven by planning and collaboration throughout the supply chain, and additional end markets for unused product or so-called ‘second harvest’ materials can be developed.
4. Measure to drive reduction
Signatories to the Courtauld Commitment 2030, one of Wrap’s industry-wide voluntary agreements, work together to deliver systemic farm-to-fork reductions in food waste, greenhouse gas emissions and water stress. The Courtauld Commitment is the UK’s leading mechanism to enable businesses of all sizes to ‘target, measure, act’ and deliver against UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve food loss and waste by 2030.
The Food Waste Reduction Roadmap outlines how all businesses can implement ‘target, measure, act’ in their operations. The evidence shows when a business begins to measure, set a target, and follow through with actions, waste is eliminated, often saving money as well as food. Measurement triggers reduction.
Wrap advocates mandatory food waste reporting to all governments, to ensure the scale of delivery that is required to halve food loss and waste by 2030 and encourage those businesses leading the way with a level playing field. When measurement is compulsory, all businesses contribute to reduction, building on the foundations of voluntary action.
The economic and environmental reasons to measure and act on food waste are compelling. The next actions are clear. The time for everyone to take a big bite out of food waste is now.