A new report from the Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP) highlights that 2 million tonnes of household food is discarded because it is not ‘used in time’ and highlights how spreading best practice between food categories can lead to significant food waste reductions.
The report: ‘Household food and drink waste: A product focus’, reveals:
2 million tonnes of household food is discarded because it is not ‘used in time’, half of which is thrown away whole or in unopened packaging, costing consumers around £2.4bn a year.
In a third of cases, passing a date label triggered disposal, while foods judged by consumers to have ‘gone off’ before they could be eaten (mouldy, stale etc.) were responsible for most of the remaining 1.3 million tonnes. Significant progress has been made around clarifying date labels and storage guidance to keep food fresher for longer, under WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment, but the level of waste clearly shows more needs to be done.
Given that 90% of waste occurs in amounts more than 50g (3.8 million tonnes), there is a real opportunity to tackle a large volume of waste by finding new ways of helping people buy and use the amounts of food they need.
WRAP says the report will help it and its partners develop more effective ways to help people reduce food waste. In particular, they highlight how sharing best practice between food categories could lead to significant waste reductions. Their three recommendations are:
- Provide a range of competitively-priced pack sizes with clear on-pack guidance on storage and freezing;
- Continue to communicate what ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ mean, whilst ensuring they are correctly applied and set to be as long as possible;; and
- Accelerate the roll out, and increase public awareness, of the ‘freeze before date mark’ label (replacing ‘freeze on day of purchase’).
However, the recent research also highlighted the scale of the opportunity remaining. The amount of avoidable household food waste in 2012 (4.2 million tonnes per year) is equivalent to six meals every week for the average UK household. Preventing this food waste could save the average family up to £700 a year and deliver significant environmental benefits in terms of landfill avoidance and mitigating climate change.
Michael Bennett of specialist food PR and communications consultancy Pelican said: “WRAP’s ongoing work to reduce food waste is making slow but steady progress. It is encouraging to see freezing recognised as an import way to preserve food that would otherwise be wasted.”
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