Large mountain of wasted fruit and vegetables at a street market

Solving the problem of food waste

pile of wasted food

Facts about food waste

50 million
chickens are wasted in the UK each year
One third
of all food produced across the globe is lost or wasted
100 million 
pints of milk are tipped down the drain each year in the UK
tonnes of food is wasted by UK supermarkets every year 
A wilted and failed maize crop in Ghana - an example of food loss

What causes food waste?

Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain.

Food that gets spilled or spoilt before harvesting – or when being stored, packed or transported – is known as food loss. Food loss can be caused by weather or insects, or by high temperatures and poor storage. 

Food that's fit for human consumption, but isn't eaten, is called food waste. It's been left to go off or is thrown away. One cause of food waste is when shops suddenly stop ordering unpopular food products – or change supplier – leaving stocks to go bad.

It also happens in shops and homes when we buy more food than can be sold or eaten.

Our food system plays a big part in climate change – so it makes sense to reduce the amount of food we waste.

A wilted and failed maize crop in Ghana - an example of food loss

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Cows in a US style feedlot
Empty food cans ready for landfill or recycling

Can I cut food packaging waste too?

You can reduce black bin waste by buying products packaged in recyclable and biodegradable materials.

Feeling more radical? Search for shops – like Bulk Market in London – that allow you to refill your oils, washing liquids and a whole host of other things.

Manufacturers and supermarkets need to do much more to cut down on unneeded packaging. We want to see 100% reusable or recyclable materials. That's why we're asking coffee shops to develop reusable and recyclable alternatives to their one-use cups. 

But we also need recycling companies to invest in the technology that can make the most out of these materials. After all, over 1 billion black plastic food trays go to landfill every day because their recyclable material isn't picked up by scanners at recycling plants. 

We can all cut the amount of packaging we pick up at the shops – and get the rest in the recycling bin. 

Empty food cans ready for landfill or recycling

How can government and business help cut food waste?

The government could halve food waste by 2030 by:

  • Getting every point of the supply chain to report on – and reduce – food waste.
  • Requiring all edible food surplus to be offered to hungry people, and then to animals as feed. 
  • Requiring all inedible food waste to be composted or used to generate energy, not sent to landfill. 

And in the meantime, businesses could: 

  • Stop demanding perfectly-shaped grub so that no edible food is wasted in the field.
  • Educate customers about food waste and how to avoid it.
  • Support measures to treat farmers well – avoiding unfair deals that lead to food waste.
  • Work with food redistribution charities to get all surplus food to people who really need it.
UK parliament at night, over the river Thames
Four wonky carrots on a bench, fresh from the farm

What is wonky veg?

The hilariously-shaped carrot has been a source of joy for allotment owners for years – but for years our supermarkets just wouldn't stock them.

The University of Edinburgh conducted a study in 2018 which revealed one third of fruit and vegetables don't make it to the supermarket shelves for cosmetic reasons. 

But are wonky veg making a comeback? In recent years many supermarkets have begun to sell 'imperfect' veg. You can join a gleaning network yourself and get out on a farm to save funny-looking fruit from going to waste.

Four wonky carrots on a bench, fresh from the farm