Avoid food waste
WRAP estimates that the food and drink sector produces 10 million tonnes of food waste each year, 60% of which could be avoided.
By weight, household food waste makes up 71% of the UK post-farm-gate total, manufacturing 17%, hospitality, food service 9%, retail 2% and other 1%.
Much of this food waste could be avoided and Waste and Resources Action Programme WRAP, Government and others are encouraging and supporting all points in the supply chain to do more to substantially reduce this figure. Part of this work has seen 710,000 tonnes of food surplus from manufacturing and retail being redistributed via charitable and commercial routes (47,000 tonnes in 2015), or diverted to produce animal feed (660,000 tonnes in 2015).
Charities such as FareShare take excess food which is still good (and would otherwise go to waste) and redistribute it to those who can benefit from it.
Some organisations have taken a Circular Economy approach and come up with innovative ways to use food, which would otherwise end up as waste. An example of this is Toast Ale which takes bakery waste and turns it into beer.
If food waste cannot be avoided, distributed to those in need or turned into alternative foods, then it can still be collected and processed through Anaerobic Digestion (AD), which turns the food waste into energy and soil conditioner. This is better than simply letting the food go to disposal as it manages the waste higher up the waste hierarchy, recovering greater value from the material. Anaerobic digestion is the process by which organic matter such as animal or food waste is broken down to produce biogas and biofertiliser. This process happens in the absence of oxygen in a sealed, oxygen-free tank called an anaerobic digester.
A great deal of food waste happens in the household. We simply buy too much and allow the food to go to waste. This seems wrong at a time where people are increasingly having to turn to foodbanks to put food on the table.
Households are being encouraged to think more carefully about the food quantities they buy, how to use up food scraps and other ingredients and to avoid wasting food. If waste is unavoidable then most of the UK now has access to food recycling systems which collect the food and then take it to be processed in AD plants. This is good, but the best way to avoid food waste is not allowing it to happen in the first instance.
Retailers and producers are also doing a great deal to try to reduce food waste in the supply chain. A lot of this work is co-ordinated and encouraged through the Courtauld Commitment. This is a voluntary agreement between retailers and brand owners that work with Government and others to help implement initiatives that will reduce food waste and raise awareness of the issues, as well as achieve the overall goal of reducing waste throughout the supply chain.
Much has been achieved to date, but there is still more that can be done by us at home and at work to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain.