Everything you need to know about food waste - and how we can stop it
Wasting food is bad for the environment - including the climate.
We waste about a third of all food produced for human consumption.
This wasted food has taken loads of fresh water, land and labour to produce. If it were a country, food waste would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases [PDF] in the world.
But we keep throwing perfectly good food away. Over 10 million tonnes of food [PDF] are binned each year in the UK.
Facts about food waste
Why is food wasted?
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 is 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.
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The great grain waste scandal
We feed around a third of the world's grains to fatten up the farm animals we eat.
It's such a waste. If we fed crops to people, instead of to livestock, we could feed an extra 4 billion people.
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.
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.
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.
When food waste charity Feedback visited one Kenyan exporter, it found that an average of 50% of each batch was rejected 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.