Food waste in the UK is a rotten topic at the moment. Three major WRAP studies published in 2013 and 2016 estimated annual food waste arisings within UK households, hospitality and food service, food manufacture, retail and wholesale sectors at around 10 million tonnes, 60% of which could have been avoided.

This has a value of over £17 billion a year, and is associated with around 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Around 85% (by weight) of the avoidable food waste arises in households and food manufacture, although waste arising in one part of the supply chain is certainly influenced by other parts of the chain.

In addition to food ending up as waste, 710,000 tonnes of food surplus from manufacturing and retail is either being redistributed via charitable and commercial routes (47,000 tonnes in 2015), or being diverted to produce animal feed (660,000 tonnes in 2015). Both are classed as waste prevention according to food material hierarchy.

There are also 2.2 million tonnes of food by-products from food manufacturing used as animal feed, and up to another 2 million tonnes of animal by-products sent to rendering plants.

Here’s a summary of what is known about food waste and related material arisings in the UK, and the treatment and disposal routes;

food waste

WRAP has also reported on how food waste levels have changed over time;

  • Since 2007 the UK has had large-scale interventions aimed at reducing food waste across supply chains, and households. This contributed to a reduction in post-farm-gate food waste between 2007 and 2015 of around 11%, or 1.25 million tonnes.
  • Household food waste in the UK was 960,000 tonnes lower in 2015 compared to 2007, which equates to a 12% reduction. Avoidable HHFW levels were 17% lower in 2015 compared to 2007, equivalent to £2.7 billion less food being wasted in 2015 compared to 2007.food waste

Some of the most commonly wasted foods in the household comprise of grapes, potato’s, apples and bread. As the end of the week approaches, we all look in the cupboards and see leftovers; a stray tomato, an almost empty punnet of grapes, a slice of bread and cheese? Instead of letting your food go out-of-date, why not pick a day of the week and challenge yourself to make something new from the ingredients left in your cupboards? The Love Food Hate Waste organisation has created a handy recipe making tool which allows you to create a recipe by inputting the ingredients you have to hand.


Food waste is costly; the UK as a whole pays for but does not eat £10.2 billion of good food each year. That’s £420 of avoidable food for the average household each year.

  • Food waste arising at manufacture reduced by around 200,000 tonnes between 2011 and 2014 (an approximate 10% reduction), whilst levels of food waste at retail were around 15% lower in 2015 compared to estimates for 2009.

The following practices were identified as key components to reducing waste and increasing return on investment. Food waste in the manufacturing and retail industry mainly consists of cakes, flowers, ready meals and sandwiches, all of which have a short sell-by-date.

  • retailers and suppliers should measure waste using tonnes as the common metric;
  • retailers and suppliers should develop ‘joint business plans’ to drive their supply chain operations with open and honest sharing of information;
  • retailers and suppliers should develop an ‘end-to-end’ understanding of each other’s businesses using tried and tested approaches such as value stream mapping; and
  • retailers and suppliers should focus on waste prevention with suppliers through the use of in-store availability measures in preference to service levels, which usually specifies delivery schedules and quantities.
  • Over the lifetime of the Courtauld agreement (2012 to 2015) the estimated weight of food waste avoided by signatories was 100,000 tonnes, with a value of approximately £100 million. The amount of food waste reported by signatories was around 3.6% lower in 2015 compared to 2012.
  • Over the lifetime of the Courtauld agreement the cumulative additional amount of surplus food redistributed was approximately 29,000 tonnes, with 18,000 tonnes being redistributed in 2015.
  • Under the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement there was a reduction in CO2e emissions of 11% against the (2012) baseline over the three years of the Agreement. Food waste prevention activities saved an estimated 24,000 tonnes of food from being thrown away (£67 million worth). Redistribution of surplus food doubled to 760 tonnes.

Looking ahead, action to increase prevention of food waste could save businesses £300 million a year.food waste

To help food manufacturers and retailers tackle the food surplus and waste, WRAP is providing ‘support through new technical guidance, tools and case studies.  This includes new Guidance for Food and Drink Manufacturers and Retailers on the ‘Use of Food Surplus’ as Animal Feed.

This resource helps identify, manage and divert food surplus to animal feed in line with relevant legislation. It is a companion piece to WRAP’s ‘Framework for Effective Redistribution Partnerships’, which helps people to set up redistribution arrangements between retailers, manufacturers and charities.’

This work builds on a Ministerial roundtable which helped focus attention on the opportunities for industry action, and the ‘Courtauld waste prevention working group, set up last year to help develop practical solutions and evidence. Further progress will be facilitated and tracked through Courtauld Working Groups (one of which will focus on redistribution) and reporting’, according to WRAP.

For a handy guide on how to store your fresh produce to maximise shelf life and reduce waste click here. Other tips include, smarter ways to reduce your food wastage in your restaurant kitchen, which includes having better communication between staff, lead staff to a ‘mentality shift’, and how to hold them accountable for playing their part to reduce wasted food and wasted money.

Once you’ve identified the key areas of food wastage in your business, you can begin to investigate the causes, and make those ‘quick wins’ – such as producing food in smaller batches, reducing the quantity of ingredients that you order, making portion sizes smaller, or simply improving the lines of communication between your staff where there are clearly ‘bottlenecks’ taking place. You may be surprised just how many improvements are based on simple common sense…

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Statistics sourced by http://www.wrap.org.uk/