• Why Is Food Waste on the Up?

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Why Is Food Waste on the Up?

Sep 05 2020

The amount of edible food being thrown away by UK households has risen by almost a third since the beginning of quarantine, according to new research carried out by Wrap, the government’s advisory body on food waste. Polling has revealed that the wastage of food had increased by around 30% since April, although it was still thankfully lower than pre-lockdown levels.

Britons had initially curbed their food wastage in April due to concerns about running out of supplies and a reluctance to visit shops with their normal frequency caused by fear of contracting the virus. However, as lockdown measures have slowly been relaxed across the country, people appear to be slipping back towards their old habits, which Wrap is committed to preventing.

Encouraging behaviour

One of the lesser publicised environmental implications of coronavirus has been the impact that quarantine has had on people’s eating habits. Contrary to predictions that irresponsible stockpiling of groceries at the outset of lockdown would result in a spike in food wastage, the opposite actually turned out to be the case.

With countless more Britons cooking their own meals and wary of venturing out in public to restock their cupboards, Wrap’s April survey found that people reported using around 86% of staples like bread, chicken, milk and potatoes. That was a 34% reduction in the wastage of those foodstuffs from January 2019, when a whopping 10 million tonnes of food were found to be thrown away in the UK each year.

That amount translates to approximately £14 billion per annum, or £700 of edible food per household each year (based upon a family with children). Obviously, such profligacy is not good for the environment or for the economy, which is why Wrap had earmarked a target of halving food waste by 50% by 2030.


Unfortunately, bad habits appear to be creeping back into many people’s lifestyles now that the government has begun lifting the restrictions around restaurants, cafes and other lunch and dinner options. Wrap’s June update revealed that only 82% of those four staples mentioned earlier were being consumed in the last few months, while overall food waste has risen by 30%.

In a bid to address that worrying trend, Wrap have this month launched a campaign dubbed “Keep Crushing It”, which encourages people to continue the good habits that they had put in place during lockdown going forwards. The initiative aims to put a particular emphasis on the environmental impact of doing so. For example, if Britons stopped throwing away bread altogether, the carbon emissions that such a small act would save would be equivalent to over 500,000 return flights between London and New York.

“Wasting less food doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming,” explained Helen White, who currently serves as the government’s special advisor on the subject. “It can be as simple as leaving the skin on when you make mash or freezing more food before it passes the ‘use by’ date.”

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